Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-sem-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To pretend, to give a false or misleading semblance of something, to mislead, deceive, misguide, or fake.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a more mellifluous substitute for deceive or mislead. It is completely unrelated to disassemble and hence should not be confused with this word. It is a dissembler who dissembles until caught in his or her dissemblance.

In Play: Dissimulate basically has no negative connotation: "Randolph dissimulates his wealth beneath old clothes and ragged sweaters." The verb dissimulate has so long been confused with dissemble that dictionaries now offer them as synonyms: "Fairleigh Lowe dissimulated a college education to get the job."

Word History: This lovely old word was captured from Old French dessembler "to be different", a word made up of dis- "not" + sembler "to appear, seem". It comes from the same ultimate source as English resemble, similar, and simulate, the Proto-Indo-European root sem- "one, as one". These three words were borrowed from French, but the same root became same in English, homos "same" in Greek", sam "together" in Sanskrit, and sam "self" in Russian, as in samovar, literally "self-boiler" and samizdat "self-publishing".

Dr. Goodword,

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