[doo-plis-i-tee, dyoo-]
See more synonyms for duplicity on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural du·plic·i·ties for 2, 3.
  1. deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.
  2. an act or instance of such deceitfulness.
  3. Law. the act or fact of including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense.
  4. the state or quality of having two elements or parts; being twofold or double.

Origin of duplicity

1400–50; late Middle English duplicite < Middle French < Medieval Latin, Late Latin duplicitās, with -ite replacing -itās; see duplex, -ity
Related formsnon·du·plic·i·ty, noun

Synonym study

1. Duplicity, deceit, guile, hypocrisy, fraud, trickery refer either to practices designed to mislead or to the qualities that produce those practices. Duplicity is the form of deceitfulness that leads one to give two impressions, either or both of which may be false: the duplicity of a spy working for two governments. Deceit is the quality that prompts intentional concealment or perversion of truth for the purpose of misleading: honest and without deceit. The quality of guile leads to craftiness in the use of deceit: using guile and trickery to attain one's ends. Hypocrisy is the pretense of possessing qualities of sincerity, goodness, devotion, etc.: It was sheer hypocrisy for him to go to church. Fraud refers usually to the practice of subtle deceit or duplicity by which one may derive benefit at another's expense: an advertiser convicted of fraud. Trickery is the quality that leads to the use of tricks and habitual deception: notorious for his trickery in business deals.

Word story

By and large, the most common sense of duplicity today is “deceitfulness.” The roots of this meaning can be found in the initial “dupl-,” from the Latin duplex, meaning twofold, or double. One can easily see how acting in double, or in two ways at different times, can be a way of deceiving or lying. The duplicitousness of our nature is evident in the widespread usage of other terms with similar roots. Should English speakers be concerned about how the popularity of such terms as “double-dealing,” “double-faced,” and “two-faced” negatively reflect upon our society? Indubitably.

Popular references

—“The Duplicity of Hargraves”: A short story by O. Henry, first published in 1902.
Duplicity: A 2009 spy flick starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.
Related Quotations
  • "Here duplicity passes for wit, and frankness is looked upon as folly."
    -Madame Elizabeth-Charlotte of Bavaria, Duchess d’Orléans Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency (1899)
  • "[W]hen he saw that he had been tricked, he lost patience at the duplicity of the Florentines, and broke the peace with them."
    -Werner L. Gundersheimer The Italian Renaissance (1965)
  • "[I]n doing so he would have left the count open to the objection of duplicity, or double pleading, in setting up two distinct and separate transactions."
    -trial transcription publ. by J. S. Voorhies Trail of Charles B. Huntington for Forgery: Principal Defense: Insanity (1857)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for duplicity

Contemporary Examples of duplicity

Historical Examples of duplicity

  • This perpetual atmosphere of duplicity was positively distasteful.


    W. A. Fraser

  • He was irritated, too, by a suspicion of duplicity in the members of the force.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Here was a man after his own heart, which loved intrigue and duplicity.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • But Cunningham's duplicity had more and closer folds than his own.

  • But the concealment, the lying and duplicity, these cannot be pardoned until they have been confessed.

British Dictionary definitions for duplicity


noun plural -ties
  1. deception; double-dealing
Derived Formsduplicitous, adjective

Word Origin for duplicity

C15: from Old French duplicite, from Late Latin duplicitās a being double, from Latin duplex
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

Word Origin and History for duplicity

early 15c., from Old French duplicite (13c.), from Late Latin duplicitatem (nominative duplicitas) "doubleness," in Medieval Latin "ambiguity," noun of quality from duplex (genitive duplicis) "twofold." The notion is of being "double" in one's conduct (cf. Greek diploos "treacherous, double-minded," literally "twofold, double").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper