[ dih-sep-tiv ]
/ dɪˈsɛp tɪv /
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apt or tending to deceive: The enemy's peaceful overtures may be deceptive.
perceptually misleading: It looks like a curved line, but it's deceptive.
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Origin of deceptive

1605–15; <Medieval Latin dēceptīvus, equivalent to Latin dēcept(us) (see deception) + -īvus-ive


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does deceptive mean?

Deceptive means intended to or tending to deceive—to lie, mislead, or otherwise hide or distort the truth.

Deceptive is typically used to describe an action or something that deceives or is intended to deceive, as in deceptive business practices. 

The related noun deception refers to the act or practice of deceiving or being deceptive.

Being deceptive doesn’t just involve lying. It can consist of misrepresenting or omitting the truth or more complicated cover-ups. Anything that involves intentionally misleading someone is deceptive.

The word deceitful often means the same thing but is more likely to be used to describe a person, whereas deceptive is more commonly applied to actions and practices.

Deceptive can also be used to describe things that are naturally or innocently misleading to one’s perception (without someone doing the deceiving). This sense of the word is especially used in its adverb form—for example, something might be called deceptively small because it looks bigger than it is. The adjective deceiving means the same thing.

Example: The report was widely criticized for being deceptive by intentionally omitting crucial pieces of information.

Where does deceptive come from?

The first records of the word deceptive come from the early 1600s. Deceptive and related words like deception and deceive ultimately derive from the Latin verb dēcipere, meaning “to ensnare” (in the literal sense of trapping someone or an animal).

Things described as deceptive include attempts to mislead or trick someone or trap them with a deceptive scheme. Being deceptive always involves deceiving someone, but it may not involve outright lying. Some forms of deception involve concealing the truth or simply omitting the truth. Just because something didn’t use a lie doesn’t it wasn’t deceptive.

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What are some other forms related to deceptive?

  • deceptively (adverb)
  • deceptiveness (noun)

What are some synonyms for deceptive?

What are some words that share a root or word element with deceptive

What are some words that often get used in discussing deceptive?

How is deceptive used in real life?

Deceptive and deceitful are often used to mean the same thing, but deceptive is less likely to be used to describe a person and more likely to describe an action or practice. Deceptive can be used in all kinds of contexts, though of course it is common in political discussion.


Try using deceptive!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of deceptive?

A. duplicitous
B . deceitful
C. descriptive
D. dishonest

How to use deceptive in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for deceptive

/ (dɪˈsɛptɪv) /

likely or designed to deceive; misleadingappearances can be deceptive
music (of a cadence) another word for interrupted (def. 3)

Derived forms of deceptive

deceptively, adverbdeceptiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012