Definition of deceptively in US English:



  • usually as submodifier In a way or to an extent that gives a misleading impression; to a lesser or greater extent than appears the case.

    ‘the idea was deceptively simple’
    ‘the airy and deceptively spacious lounge’
    • ‘These poets were portrayed by actress Fiona Choi, who looked deceptively Vietnamese and Japanese in costume, despite her Chinese heritage.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Even PBS's interview program NewsHour, which deceptively bills itself as a news show, draws a reported 3 million viewers a night.’
    • ‘Even more enigmatic is the correspondent who begins, ‘Your reviews are always deceptively written so as to give the impression of content’.’
    • ‘From July 1, fines for deceptively labelling the wrong species will increase from $3,000 to a maximum of $275,000.’
    • ‘Don't be fooled by the slick advertising and deceptively impressive hardware and launch titles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And the White House has used it deceptively before.’
    • ‘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.’


Deceptively belongs to a very small set of words whose meaning is genuinely ambiguous in that it can be used in similar contexts to mean both one thing and also its complete opposite. A deceptively smooth surface is one that 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, use with caution (or not at all), unless the context makes clear in what way the thing modified is not what it first appears to be