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There seems to be a boundary between these concepts, but I can't quite work out where it is. Camouflage and mimicry are deceptions; telling untruths is deceitful.

In common usage we would say, 'The bowler deceived the batsman in flight,' but do we classify a spin bowler as attempting deception, or deceit? Alternatively, if a fielder falsely claims a catch this is deceit, not deception.

There seems to be ideas of volition and purpose related to the difference, but there is more and I can't see it. Camouflage and mimicry in animals is certainly deceptive, but is almost always without individual volition. Predators and prey have different takes on it, but it is based on hardwired behaviours and evolved form and colour. The purpose is survival. Human camouflage is a matter of volition. In war, camouflage or mimicry have the same purpose as in other animals – enable killing, avoid being killed. I suspect this falls within deception. The extreme deceit end of the spectrum is deliberate, misleading behaviour designed to gain an (undeserved?) advantage over another. Any ideas about that boundary?

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In the United States, the standard term for intentionally misleading commercial messages is "deceptive advertising," not "deceitful advertising." This comports with the notion that only human beings (and not their creations) can properly be termed deceitful; but even so, such ads reflect considerably more human volition and purpose than do natural (evolutionary) camouflage or mimicry. – Sven Yargs Feb 22 '13 at 4:02
Deceit is to deception as freedom is to escape – Mitch Jan 16 at 18:08

"Deception" is more closely associated with the accomplishment of purposeful misguidance or misdirection (which is often physical, as with your suggestions of mimicry and camouflage). "Deceit" is more closely related to the intention to mislead, and carries a (negative) connotation of willful malfeasance.

I think this is something of a case of "false friends," in which these similar terms are really only distantly derived from the same source, and probably should be viewed as being essentially separate, albeit related, concepts. The first ("deception") does not even necessarily carry any connotation of evil, whereas the second ("deceit") generally and usually does.

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