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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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

Example Sentences

warned her not to trust the duplicitous art dealer
Recent Examples on the Web White also hinted to Esquire earlier this year that Greg — Tanya's greedy, duplicitous husband played by Jon Gries in seasons 1 and 2 — could also make a comeback. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 26 May 2023 Sully repeatedly tells him to trust no one, and the two duplicitous femmes fatales the pair cross paths with, Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), give little reason to discount that advice, yet Nathan remains fairly guileless. David Sims, The Atlantic, 16 Feb. 2022 Again, duplicitous! Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Jan. 2023 Is any other home good so extremely duplicitous? Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 3 June 2021 Some criticized Roberts as naïve or duplicitous. Charles Gardner Geyh, The Conversation, 18 Dec. 2020 An animal is never duplicitous. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 2 Feb. 2011 The government also said in its sentencing memo that Mr. Singer was a reluctant and duplicitous cooperator who destroyed evidence and tipped off at least six clients. Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, 4 Jan. 2023 Much of the non-Fox News media, meanwhile, has crowed at tangible evidence of the network’s duplicitous coverage and speculated about whether any of it will force Fox News to reform. Clare Malone, The New Yorker, 15 Mar. 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 8 Jun. 2023.

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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