[ doo-plis-i-tuhs, dyoo- ]
/ duˈplɪs ɪ təs, dyu- /
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marked or characterized by duplicity.
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Origin of duplicitous

First recorded in 1955–60; duplicit(y) + -ous

OTHER WORDS FROM duplicitous

du·plic·i·tous·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does duplicitous mean?

Duplicitous is used to describe someone who intentionally misleads people, especially by saying different things to different people or acting in different ways at different times.

The word can also describe the actions of such a person. A close synonym is deceitful. A more informal synonym is double-dealing (which can also be used as a noun).

To be duplicitous is to engage in duplicity, which refers to the practice of misleading someone in this way, to the quality of a person who does this, or to an instance of such deception.

People who are liars are duplicitous. The word is based on the idea of presenting two or more different versions of oneself or of a situation. Fittingly, duplicitous people are often accused of being two-faced or of “speaking out of both sides of their mouth.” This typically means that they say different things to different people (in other words, they lie) in order to serve their agenda.

Less commonly, duplicitous can describe something that has two elements or parts. This sense of duplicitous does not have the same negative implication as the primary sense of the word.

Example: I’ve never met someone more duplicitous—he says one thing and then turns around and says the complete opposite, barely trying to conceal the lie.

Where does duplicitous come from?

The first records of the word duplicitous come from the late 1800s in a legal context. The first records of its general sense come from the mid-1900s. It ultimately comes from the Late Latin word duplicitās, meaning “doubleness.” The beginning part du- means “two” and is the basis of words like duo, duplex, and duplicate.

When you call someone duplicitous, it most commonly means they are two-faced. It’s often used to describe someone who is intentionally trying to give different impressions to different people. One impression can be true and one a lie, or they can both be lies, but in any case the result is something that is not the full truth.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to duplicitous?

  • duplicitously (adverb)
  • duplicitousness (noun)
  • duplicity (noun)

What are some synonyms for duplicitous?

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

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

How is duplicitous used in real life?

Duplicitous is somewhat formal. It is often used to describe people intentionally trying to mislead others—or the actions of such people.

Try using duplicitous!

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

A. deceitful

B. straightforward

C. dishonest

D. double-dealing

How to use duplicitous in a sentence