Printable Version
Pronunciation: du-pli-sê-tês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Intentionally deceptive, pretending one thing while intending another. 2. (Law, said of a charge or indictment) Containing more than one allegation.

Notes: Although this word is rather slithery, it has a certain beauty. It comes with a noun, duplicity, equally attractive. I suppose all this is appropriate, since duplicitous people and offers tend to be suspiciously attractive. The Word History will show that this word is related to duplex, a double housing unit today, but originally it referred to anything twofold—or two-faced.

In Play: Unfortunately, we still live in a world where today's Good Word has to work overtime: "I wouldn't buy a property from a real estate agent as duplicitous as Les Cheatham; he sold my neighbor a piece of land in Florida infested with alligators." We find duplicity in the workplace, but it also rears its deceptively beautiful head at home: "Don't you think it a bit duplicitous to tell your wife you're buying her a new luxury car and then give her this toy BMW?"

Word History: Today's Good Word was actually created by adding the adjective suffix -ous to the noun duplicity. Duplicity was taken pretty much "as is" from French duplicité around the 13th century. French inherited this word from its Latin ancestor duplex, duplicis "double, twofold". In fact, English twofold is based on the same model as duplex. Duplex was originally a compound comprising duo "two" + the root of plicare "to fold". Since Proto-Indo-European [p] became [f] in English, we can assume that Latin plicare and English fold came from the same source. Duo also came from the same source as English two. The sense of duplicity comes from the implication that a duplicitous person has a twofold agenda: the one he or she presents beneath which lies a hidden one. (Of course, we would never be so duplicitous as to accept Margaret Knapp's suggestion of today's beautiful Good Word without offering this word of gratitude.)

Dr. Goodword,

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