du·​plic·​i·​tous du̇-ˈpli-sə-təs How to pronounce duplicitous (audio)
 also  dyu̇-
: marked by duplicity : deceptive in words or action
duplicitous tactics
duplicitously adverb

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The Double Nature of Duplicity and Duplicitous

The idea of doubleness is at the core of duplicity and duplicitous. Duplicity is the older of the pair; it 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 the hidden 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

Examples of duplicitous in a Sentence

warned her not to trust the duplicitous art dealer
Recent Examples on the Web Because British strategic goals in the region were always paramount, both Palestinians and Jews found their colonial rulers unreliable and duplicitous at times. TIME, 1 Feb. 2024 In addition to sexualized images, deepfakes are also being increasingly used by duplicitous businesses to depict celebrities endorsing products. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Jan. 2024 The series even generates a few laughs, courtesy of Zoe Smith (Parker Posey), the duplicitous disruptor/identity thief who impersonates a doctor on the crew. Randy Myers, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 DiCaprio costars as her duplicitous husband Ernest, who has a hand in their deaths. Eric Andersson, Peoplemag, 26 Dec. 2023 The story of Peacock’s Dr. Death in its second season is really two stories, which intersect through duplicitous surgeon Paolo Macchiarini (Edgar Ramírez). Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 Dec. 2023 In response, Oates filed a court declaration denying Hall’s claims of duplicitous dealings and alleged that his music collaborator has been an absent business partner. Carlos De Loera, Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec. 2023 McNeil never shows us whether the representative is a duplicitous hype man or a believer in his own argument. Peter C. Baker, The New Yorker, 13 Dec. 2023 And as Colombian pop icon Shakira split with the duplicitous father of her children, Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique, the Spanish tax agency pursued our queen for a whopping 23.8 million euros in fines, alleging tax evasion from 2012 through 2014. Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times, 20 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'duplicitous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see duplicity

First Known Use

1928, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of duplicitous was in 1928

Dictionary Entries Near duplicitous

Cite this Entry

“Duplicitous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/duplicitous. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition


du·​plic·​i·​tous dü-ˈpli-sə-təs, dyü- How to pronounce duplicitous (audio)
: marked by duplicity
a duplicitous indictment
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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