[ doo-plis-i-tee, dyoo- ]
/ duˈplɪs ɪ ti, dyu- /
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Definition of duplicity

noun, plural du·plic·i·ties for 2, 3.
deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.
an act or instance of such deceitfulness.
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.
the state or quality of having two elements or parts; being twofold or double.
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Origin of duplicity

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English duplicite, from Middle French duplicitė́, from Late Latin duplicitāt-, stem of duplicitās “doubleness”; see origin at duplex, -ity

synonym study for duplicity

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.

historical usage of duplicity

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 for duplicity

—“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.


non·du·plic·i·ty, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does duplicity mean?

Duplicity is the practice of intentionally misleading people, especially by saying different things to different people or acting in different ways at different times.

Close synonyms are deceit and deception. A more informal synonym is double-dealing (which can also be used as an adjective).

Duplicity can also refer to the quality of someone or something that misleads in this way or to an instance of deception.

People who are liars engage in duplicity. The word is based on the idea of presenting two or more different versions of oneself or of a situation. Fittingly, people who use duplicity 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.

In a legal context, duplicity is used in a more specific way to refer to the inclusion of two offenses in one charge, which in many places is a violation of the legal process (in which each offense should be counted separately).

Less commonly, duplicity can refer to the state or quality of having two elements or parts. This sense of duplicity does not have the same negative implication as the primary sense of the word.

The adjective form of duplicity is duplicitous.

Example: There is clearly no shame in his duplicity—he says one thing and then turns around and says the complete opposite, barely trying to conceal the lie.

Where does duplicity come from?

The first records of the word duplicity come from the 1400s. It 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.

Duplicity most commonly refers to a kind of two-facedness. It’s often used to refer to what someone is engaging in when they intentionally 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 duplicity?

What are some synonyms for duplicity?

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

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

How is duplicity used in real life?

Duplicity is somewhat formal. It is usually used negatively, often in the context of people intentionally trying to mislead people by saying different things at different times, such as in politics.

Try using duplicity!

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

A. deception

B. doublethink

C. doublespeak

D. double-dealing

How to use duplicity in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for duplicity

/ (djuːˈplɪsɪtɪ) /

noun plural -ties
deception; double-dealing

Derived forms of duplicity

duplicitous, 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