I was reading this particular sentence:

She took the disguise of an old woman and came to Eleusis, where she was welcomed by the family of King Celeus.

Disguise means costume. So, does it mean she took an old lady's clothes?

  • 2
    It means that she pretended to be an old woman.
    – Rob W
    May 1, 2013 at 8:07
  • 'Disguise' does not mean 'costume', it means to alter the appearance of something to deceive a third party. Military camouflage disguises people/tanks/aircraft as part of the landscape.
    – Mynamite
    May 1, 2013 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


No! The verb take has various uses and senses. She took the clothes of an old woman would have the sense you mean, but take is not infrequently used 'delexically' - as a sort of 'dummy', bleached-of-semantic-content verb; the expressions where this happens are really fixed idioms. Examples are:

He took ( / had) a bath.

Take the next right.

Do you feel like taking a walk?

She took the disguise of an old woman (ie she disguised herself as an old woman).

DNA actually takes the form of a double helix.

But note that the delexical - lexical distinction can get blurry:

Sauron took the form of a mighty warrior clothed in armour.

Here, 'take the form' implies an electing to exist in this form at this time, so take is not just a verb bleached of meaning here. This is true also with 'take the disguise (of)'.


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