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Duplicity vs. Guile — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on May 16, 2024
Duplicity involves deceitfulness and double-dealing, while guile refers to sly or cunning intelligence used to achieve a goal.
Duplicity vs. Guile — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Duplicity and Guile


Key Differences

Duplicity refers to the act of being deceitful by presenting different appearances or statements to different people, often for dishonest purposes. For instance, a person practicing duplicity might agree with opposing parties to manipulate both. Guile, on the other hand, is characterized by cunning and shrewdness, often employed to achieve a particular goal. A person with guile uses clever and crafty methods to deceive or outwit others.
Duplicity often involves intentional deception through contradictory behavior or statements, making it synonymous with two-facedness. In contrast, guile emphasizes the use of cleverness and craftiness, often in a strategic manner, to achieve one's ends, whether or not it involves direct deceit.
In social contexts, duplicity can lead to a loss of trust as it reveals a person's propensity for dishonesty. Guile, while potentially deceptive, can sometimes be admired for its cleverness, especially if used in a non-malicious way.
Morally, duplicity is generally viewed negatively due to its inherent dishonesty and betrayal. Guile, however, can be perceived in a more nuanced manner, where its ethical judgment depends on the context and intent behind its use.

Comparison Chart


Deceitfulness and double-dealing
Sly or cunning intelligence

Nature of Deception

Involves presenting contradictory behavior or statements
Involves clever and crafty methods

Social Impact

Leads to loss of trust
Can be admired for cleverness if non-malicious

Moral Judgment

Generally viewed negatively
Viewed more nuanced, context-dependent

Example in Use

Pretending loyalty to two opposing sides
Outsmarting a competitor with clever strategies

Compare with Definitions


The state of being two-faced or deceitful.
The politician's duplicity eroded public trust.


Sly or cunning intelligence.
The detective's guile helped solve the complex case.


Deceitfulness by acting in contradictory ways.
His duplicity was revealed when he promised support to both sides of the argument.


Craftiness in achieving a goal.
She used guile to negotiate a better deal.


The practice of intentionally misleading others.
Her duplicity in business negotiations caused significant losses.


Skillful deceit.
The fox is often seen as a symbol of guile in folklore.


Double-dealing behavior.
He was known for his duplicity, saying one thing and doing another.


Clever and deceitful strategy.
His guile in avoiding the tricky questions was impressive.


The president was accused of duplicity in his dealings with Congress


The ability to deceive in a subtle manner.
Her guile made her a formidable poker player.


The state of being double.


Treacherous cunning; skillful deceit.


Deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech.


A trick or stratagem.


An instance of deliberate deceptiveness; double-dealing.


To beguile; deceive.


The quality or state of being twofold or double.


(uncountable) Astuteness often marked by a certain sense of cunning or artful deception.


Intentional deceptiveness; double-dealing.


Deceptiveness, deceit, fraud, duplicity, dishonesty.


Doubleness; a twofold state.
Do not affect duplicities nor triplicities, nor any certain number of parts in your division of things.


Obsolete form of gold


Doubleness of heart or speech; insincerity; a sustained form of deception which consists in entertaining or pretending to entertain one set of feelings, and acting as if influenced by another; bad faith.
Far from the duplicity wickedly charged on him, he acted his part with alacrity and resolution.


Alternative form of gyle


The use of two or more distinct allegations or answers, where one is sufficient.


To deceive, beguile, bewile.


A fraudulent or duplicitous representation


Craft; deceitful cunning; artifice; duplicity; wile; deceit; treachery.
Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.
To wage by force or guile eternal war.


Acting in bad faith; deception by pretending to entertain one set of intentions while acting under the influence of another


To disguise or conceal; to deceive or delude.


Dishonest behavior meant to deceive.
The spy's duplicity was crucial to his mission.


Shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception


The quality of being crafty


The use of tricks to deceive someone (usually to extract money from them)

Common Curiosities

What is duplicity?

Duplicity refers to deceitful behavior, often involving presenting different appearances or statements to different people.

What is guile?

Guile is the use of clever and cunning intelligence to achieve a goal.

Is duplicity always negative?

Yes, duplicity is generally viewed negatively due to its inherent dishonesty.

What is an example of guile?

E.g., A negotiator using clever tactics to secure a better deal.

Can guile be positive?

Guile can be seen positively if used for clever, strategic purposes without malicious intent.

Does guile always involve lying?

No, guile involves cleverness and strategy, which may or may not include lying.

Can duplicity and guile be used interchangeably?

No, duplicity specifically involves deceit and double-dealing, while guile refers to cleverness and craftiness, not necessarily deceitful.

What is an example of duplicity?

E.g., A person pledging support to two opposing parties to gain favor from both.

Does duplicity involve lying?

Yes, duplicity often involves lying and presenting false appearances.

Is duplicity found in professional settings?

Yes, duplicity can occur in business and politics, where individuals may deceive others for personal gain.

How does duplicity affect relationships?

Duplicity erodes trust and damages relationships due to its deceitful nature.

How does guile affect relationships?

Guile can either harm or impress others depending on the context and intent behind its use.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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