Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-sim-yê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To pretend not to sense in any way, intentionally neglect. 2. To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance, to dissemble, misrepresent.

Notes: This word resembles two others to the point of confusion. It is now considered a synonym of dissemble (see Meaning). But it also resembles dissimilation, a scientific term naming the process of a consonant changing so as not to be identical with another consonant in a word. For example, French marbre became the English marble to avoid two Rs by dissimilation. (It remained in Russian mramor, Portuguese mármore, and German marmor.) We have our choice of dssimulance or dissimulation for nouns.

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: Today's Good word was created from the past-participle stem of Latin dissimulare "make unlike, not similar; to conceal, disguise". This word comprises dis- "not, opposite of" + simulare "to make simular, imitate, copy", created from the stem of similis "like, resembling". Latin made this word from PIE root sem- "one, as one, (together) with" plus a suffix -el, source also of simultaneous. The PIE original also gave birth to Sanskrit sam "together", and English same, borrowed from Old Norse samr "same". In Greek we find homos "same", which is present in borrowed words like homogenous and homonym. With the -el suffix, it is visible in Romance borrowings like assemble and ensemble. (Let's not dissimulate our gratitude to Charles Freund for recommending today's sometimes confusing Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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