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: Dissemblance can be a kind of fakery: "The fact that Cranston dissembled most of his credentials became painfully apparent the first day he took up the duties of his new job." Anything you intentionally disguise is also dissembled: "I cannot dissemble my love of your chocolate torte, Mya. Could I have just one more slice?"

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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