Definition of deceptively in English:



  • 1[usually as submodifier] In a way or to an extent that gives a misleading impression:

    • ‘Recruiting posters for the 1914-18 war deceptively advertised the army as a chance to see the world, hoping to sign up immigrants who wanted a cheap trip back to Europe.’
    • ‘These poets were portrayed by actress Fiona Choi, who looked deceptively Vietnamese and Japanese in costume, despite her Chinese heritage.’
    • ‘The deals allowed them to artificially inflate cash flow and hide debt, which deceptively boosted share price and ultimately led to the company's collapse.’
    • ‘Even PBS's interview program NewsHour, which deceptively bills itself as a news show, draws a reported 3 million viewers a night.’
    • ‘From July 1, fines for deceptively labelling the wrong species will increase from $3,000 to a maximum of $275,000.’
    • ‘Even more enigmatic is the correspondent who begins, ‘Your reviews are always deceptively written so as to give the impression of content’.’
    • ‘From the front, the Jefferson Arms could be someone's house - deceptively - it stretches a long way back, and you make your way up through what looks like it will be a pleasant little beer garden in summer.’
    • ‘And the White House has used it deceptively before.’
    • ‘The first bars of the opening track ‘Le Garage’ lure you in gently, and deceptively, since there is nothing gentle either about the rest of the track or the remaining thirteen.’
    • ‘Don't be fooled by the slick advertising and deceptively impressive hardware and launch titles.’
    1. 1.1 To a lesser extent than appears the case:
      ‘the idea was deceptively simple’
      • ‘‘You learn with experience how to deal with potential troublemakers,’ says Robin, a deceptively slight figure who is one of the softest spoken men I have ever known.’
      • ‘Their idea is deceptively simple: allow people to chat each other up on their mobile phones.’
      • ‘It achieved all this with a deceptively simple idea: buy electricity from private power producers and resell it to municipal and state utility companies.’
      • ‘It started as a deceptively gentle ballad, softly sung by Andrew, before crunching, frenzied guitars were unleashed at triple speed and Ger plunged head first through walls of fractured noise into Matt's drum kit.’
      • ‘He had a quiet and low-key manner which made him seem a deceptively average person - the intelligence of his self-disguise connected his early interest in theatre with his professional life.’
      • ‘Their designs are timeless, evocative, and deceptively simple - and in the decades that have followed, I can't think of anyone whose work approaches their level.’
      • ‘When she spoke, her voice was deceptively calm.’
      • ‘No matter who her intended audience - readers of a scholarly journal or a museum catalog - she speaks in the same clear and deceptively simple conversational voice.’
      • ‘Not unlike Niccol himself, who is deceptively soft-spoken, a quality that almost disguises his healthy degree of cynicism about mainstream cinema.’
      • ‘The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill moves at a pleasant, deceptively casual pace, which gives you little inkling of the dramatic twists this tale will take, and the surprises at the end.’
      • ‘If you get the order wrong, you'll discover that the deceptively sharp corner of the box of detergent will slice through the soft paper bag containing the litter like a cleaver through margarine, or, if you will, a chainsaw through lard.’
      • ‘The facts may appear to be deceptively simple but, as in most VAT cases, the answer seems to be made to be anything but straightforward.’
      • ‘Looking east, past US 101 and San Quentin Point, the blue ragged ridges of Mt. Diablo seemed deceptively close.’
      • ‘Although very sophisticated, his music often appears deceptively simple and straight-forward, and the pop shine given to some of these compositions helps making this is most accessible record to date.’
      • ‘Her voice was deceptively calm, but Tyler could tell it was taking a great amount of strength to keep it that way.’
      • ‘We got to practice some Aikido in a park yesterday, and while the ground beneath the deceptively soft grass is itself much harder than a mat, I'm still glad.’
      • ‘Most of the audience here tonight probably have records that are older than the deceptively shambolic-looking crew - these recent Mercury Music Prize nominees have an average age of 21.’
      • ‘A deceptively calm, undeniably male voice called from the hallway.’
      • ‘The deceptively innocuous question, ‘Do you think California's DUI laws are too harsh, too lenient, or just right?’’
      • ‘The infamous perfectionist Tati continually chooses gentle smiles over hearty belly laughs, the deceptively simple slapstick sequences often much more clever than laugh-out-loud funny.’
    2. 1.2 To a greater extent than appears the case:
      ‘the airy and deceptively spacious lounge’
      • ‘His swing is quick, smooth and deceptively powerful, reflective of someone with natural athletic gifts cruelly denied most of us.’
      • ‘Beautifully presented and deceptively spacious, this detached residence has been very well maintained by its current owners.’
      • ‘A short, wiry man, Ponting is deceptively strong and his currant-like eyes burn with pride. He is a combination of the best of the Chappell brothers: he scraps like Ian but can bat with the grace of Greg.’
      • ‘Harrison isn't imposing but is deceptively strong and incredibly quick off the line.’
      • ‘It is a fine family residence extending to offer a deceptively spacious home to its new occupiers.’
      • ‘The living room is one of those deceptively large rooms that always needs more paint than you initially estimate, and, true to form, we had to make an emergency dash to Taunton late in the afternoon to get another can.’
      • ‘This is a deceptively spacious property with a ground floor WC, an L-shaped lounge/dining room, a modern fitted kitchen, three bedrooms, two of which are doubles, and a bathroom.’
      • ‘The skordalia is particularly delicious, if deceptively so: behind its dull grey exterior is a blend of garlic, almonds, olive oil, and potatoes that's rather addictive.’
      • ‘Crucial, also, are the efforts of Colm Crowley, a creator and scorer of goals, Declan McKillop and Johnny Maher, a burly but deceptively adroit full-forward.’
      • ‘Although Du has a slim figure, he is deceptively strong and should be able to cope with the more physical side of the game - rather like Sun Jihai, who is also slightly-built but tough as bricks.’
      • ‘Strong in the air and in the tackle, he is deceptively quick for a big man and is not afraid to go for goal.’
      • ‘This house is deceptively spacious, with 153 square metres of accommodation.’
      • ‘The former Hellas Verona player is also deceptively quick considering his size, and rumours have it that Laursen is the fastest player on the Danish national team in a 100 metre dash.’
      • ‘Let's start with 13 Sherwood Grove, a deceptively spacious semi in a quiet cul-de-sac location which is on the market for £110,000.’
      • ‘From the outside it is deceptively small - the first surprise is when you pass through the barn-like entrance to find you are on a dramatic balcony overlooking a huge central court filled with tractors and other large farm machines.’
      • ‘Such is the hewn nature of his physique, like something from the imagination of a classical sculptor, that he can look deceptively statuesque on a football pitch, an impression only deepened by his monumental silence.’
      • ‘Fantastic under the high ball and a big, strong man when he broke through a line, Gavin was also deceptively quick.’
      • ‘This innovative design provides deceptively spacious accommodation that is presented with impeccable taste and flair throughout.’
      • ‘The trouble with the dialogue in The Cherry Orchard, McDonald has discovered, is that it looks deceptively manageable on the page, and probably is to the purists, but Chekhov is the master of subtext.’
      • ‘They wrote bouncy, catchy tunes that were deceptively sophisticated - the hilariously parodic breakout single, ‘Barbie Girl,’ for example.’


Deceptively belongs to a very small set of words whose meaning is genuinely ambiguous. It can be used in similar contexts to mean both one thing and also its complete opposite. A deceptively smooth surface is one which appears smooth but in fact is not smooth at all, while a deceptively spacious room is one that does not look spacious but is in fact more spacious than it appears. But what is a deceptively steep gradient? Or a person who is described as deceptively strong? To avoid confusion, it is probably best to reword and not to use deceptively in such contexts at all