Verb > Dissimulate

Verb – Dissimulate

Dissimulate” has Latin roots that mean “to make not the same.”

To dissimulate is to act dishonestly by hiding things or disguising things.

And, to dissimulate something is to hide it or disguise it.

Notice that when you dissimulate something, that means you’re concealing it, or covering it up. It doesn’t mean that you’re faking it or pretending that it’s real. If someone is dissimulating her ignorance, that means she really does have ignorance and she’s hiding it, covering it up, or passing it off as something else, like a lack of interest: Dissimulating her ignorance, she declared the subject boring and quickly changed it.” It doesn’t mean she’s pretending to be ignorant. If someone is pretending to have some quality, you can say they’re simulating it (but not dissimulating it): “Simulating ignorance, she asked me how to play Scrabble, then creamed me, 350 to 120.”

Part of speech:

It’s a verb.

Often it’s the transitive kind: “he dissimulated his pain,” “they’re dissimulating their ignorance.”

It can also be the intransitive kind: “she was dissimulating again,” “you can’t get away with dissimulating in this age of fact-checking.”

Other forms:
dissimulated, dissimulating, dissimulation, dissimulative, dissimulator(s).

how to use it:
This word is formal and serious.

It’s not rare, but you don’t spot it every single day, either; so, it’s good for emphasis. That is, it helps you call attention, with some freshness and sophistication, to the fact that someone has something to hide.

To use the intransitive verb, just talk about people dissimulating: “that politician dissimulates in every speech;” “that company dissimulates in every advertisement.”

And to use the transitive verb, talk about people dissimulating things–that is, hiding them, or disguising them–such as facts, realities, problems, weaknesses, inabilities, feelings, biases, expectations, and so on.

As you guys know, I never recommend picking a sophisticated word in order to obscure or obfuscate–that is, to confuse people, or to hide the truth while, weasel-like, claiming accuracy in your word choice. So, the worst way to use the word “dissimulate” would be to pick it instead of the word “lie” in an attempt to hide, diminish, or gloss over someone’s dishonesty. In other words, we shouldn’t use “dissimulate” to dissimulate. But some people do.

“Aspirants to public office in the US may well dissimulate, but in a wide-open cultural landscape, with only the occasional ironic outcropping, there’s hardly anywhere for them to hide.”
— Will Self, BBC, 4 January 2013

“Perhaps this old Brockway was protecting himself from something…. Maybe he was dissimulating, like some of the teachers at the college, who, to avoid trouble when driving through the small surrounding towns, wore chauffeur caps and pretended that their cars belonged to white men. But why was he pretending with me?”
— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952

“‘You know, I am twenty-one now.”
‘Is it possible?’
‘Very possible! in four years from now I shall be quite an old maid!’
The count looked at Bijou with an admiration which he did not attempt to dissimulate, as he answered emphatically:
‘You an old maid? oh, never in the world, never!'”

— Gyp (Sibylle Riqueti de Mirabeau), Bijou, 1897