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Middle English disgisen, from Anglo-French desguiser, deguiser, from des- dis- + guise guise


  • 1 a : to change the customary dress or appearance of b : to furnish with a false appearance or an assumed identity
  • 2 obsolete : disfigure
  • 3 : to obscure the existence or true state or character of : conceal <unable to disguise his true feelings>

— dis·guised·ly \-ˈgīz(-ə)d-lē, -ˈkīz(-ə)d-\ adverb

— dis·guise·ment \-ˈgīz-mənt, -ˈkīz-\ noun

— dis·guis·er noun


cloak, mask mean to alter the dress or appearance of so as to conceal the identity or true nature. disguise implies a change in appearance or behavior that misleads by presenting a different apparent identity <disguised herself as a peasant>. cloak suggests a means of hiding a movement or an intention <cloaked their maneuvers in secrecy>. mask suggests some often obvious means of hiding or disguising something <smiling to mask his discontent>.


Disguises change appearance with costume or other means of deception so that true identity is hidden. Camouflage is one type of disguise for people, animals and objects. Hats, glasses, change in hair style or wigs, plastic surgery, and make-up are also used.

Disguises are used by criminals such as bank robbers and by spies seeking to avoid identification. A well-known person or celebrity may choose to go "incognito" in order to avoid unwelcome press attention. In comic books and films, disguises are used by superheroes and in science fiction by aliens. Dressing up in costumes is a Halloween tradition.

The use of disguise is also sometimes employed in propaganda. A proposal may be disguised in order to hide an unpopular motivation or to keep effects associated with the proposal from being fully disclosed. This is a form of "political spin". "Rationalisation" and "transfer" are used within the techniques of propaganda. For example, an act of war may be depicted as a "peace" mission.

See also