duplicity

play
noun du·plic·i·ty \du̇-ˈpli-sə-tē also dyu̇-\

Definition of duplicity

plural

duplicities

  1. 1 :  contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action; especially :  the belying of one's true intentions by deceptive words or action

  2. 2 :  the quality or state of being double or twofold

  3. 3 :  the technically incorrect use of two or more distinct items (as claims, charges, or defenses) in a single legal action

Examples of duplicity in a sentence

  1. He exposed the spy's duplicity.

  2. <we were lucky not to be taken in by his duplicity>

How to Remember What duplicity Means

The idea of doubleness is at the core of duplicity. Duplicity comes from a Latin word meaning "double" or "twofold," and its original meaning in English has to do with a kind of deception in which you intentionally hide your true feelings or intentions behind false words or actions. If you are being duplicitous there are two yous: the one you're showing and the one you're hiding. And—key to the idea of duplicity—you're hiding that you in order to make people believe something that's not true.

The word is found in many works of literature, including the Bible:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
— Proverbs 11:3 (New International Version)

Even when he sat opposite me in the kitchen, talking, he would turn his head a little toward the clock or the stove and look at me from the side, but with frankness and good nature. This trick did not suggest duplicity or secretiveness….
— Willa Cather, My Antonia, 1918

Arch read it at breakfast the day it came out and again that night. He admired its art but was most, affected, and in fact discomfited, by its unblinking inventory of self-seeking and duplicity.
— Tobias Wolff, Old School, 2003

Did You Know?

If someone's duplicity has left you feeling like you're seeing double, take heart in the word's etymology. Duplicity comes from a long line of "double" talk, starting with its Latin grandparent duplex, which means "double" or "twofold." As you might expect, duplex is also the parent of another term for doubling it up, duplicate. And of course, the English duplex (which can be a noun meaning "a two-family house" or an adjective meaning "double") comes from the Latin word of the same spelling.

Origin and Etymology of duplicity

Middle English duplicite, from Middle French, from Late Latin duplicitat-, duplicitas, from Latin duplex


First Known Use: 15th century


DUPLICITY Defined for English Language Learners

duplicity

play
noun du·plic·i·ty \du̇-ˈpli-sə-tē also dyu̇-\

Definition of duplicity for English Language Learners

  • : dishonest behavior that is meant to trick someone


Law Dictionary

duplicity

play
noun du·plic·i·ty \dü-ˈpli-sə-tē, dyü-\

Legal Definition of duplicity

plural

duplicities

  1. 1 :  the use of deceptive words or actions

  2. 2 :  the use of more than one claim, allegation, or defense in a single paragraph of a pleading; especially :  the improper charging of more than one offense in one count in a charging instrument (as an indictment) — compare misjoinder, multiplicity

Origin and Etymology of duplicity

Late Latin duplicitat- duplicitas duality, double-dealing, from Latin duplex twofold



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up duplicity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

an alert or lookout

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • alphabet-magnets
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ