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The definitions of it, pretty much all, involve words like "trickery" and "deception".

But one legitimate definition can also be: to captivate with irresistible charm.

Nothing too bad sounding.

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    define:beguile search on google simply has charm or enchant (someone), sometimes in a deceptive way., so no =)
    – icy
    Jun 24, 2015 at 19:55
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    @icy, I think a suitable answer should be more empirical than depending on what's in the dictionary. (Not regarding your answer tho) Jun 24, 2015 at 20:37
  • Yes. Think of beguile as the nicer version of 'conning' someone
    – Mitch
    Jun 24, 2015 at 20:41
  • @Mitch, so it's bad? Jun 24, 2015 at 20:43
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    "beguiling someone" is probably a little bad (but not to the degree of conning or deceiving them), "being beguiled" may or may not be the same (it may or may not be their fault or intention), "finding someone beguiling" is usually a complement.
    – Avon
    Jun 24, 2015 at 21:10

4 Answers 4

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This is entirely opinion, but I can't actually recall the last time I heard is used negatively. In recent memory, I've only seen it used as a positive, usually as an empowering feminine attribute. The notion being that the person in question is both streetwise and attractive enough to achieve whatever they want.

Most of the contexts I've seen it used in have also had mystery as a connotation, implying that the person in question is also immediately fascinating to other people, or that the source of their power is unclear.

I can't recall for certain, but I believe that the Wilson Fisk character in Netflix's Daredevil show recently called a beautiful, eloquent and foreign accented museum curator he was falling in love with, beguiling. That's the kind of scenario that the word invokes for me.

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The OED describes five different senses of the verb beguile.

Two of them - numbers 4 and 5 - are very positive:

  1. To win the attention or interest of (any one) by wiling means; to charm, divert, amuse; to wile (one) on, or into any course.

  2. To divert attention in some pleasant way from (anything painful, or irksome); to elude the disagreeable sensation of, and so to cause to pass insensibly or pleasantly; to charm away, wile away.

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  • Into any course??? I disagree vehemently, in that being enticed into the course of eternal indebtedness by being inveigled into a few moments of pleasure is certainly not positive.
    – EM Fields
    Jun 24, 2015 at 23:32
  • Would it not be positive if the the few moments were of infinite pleasure?
    – deadrat
    Jun 25, 2015 at 3:37
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Consider the etymology of words as well as generally perceived usage/nuance of the word.

Beguile comes from guile, which means:

sly or cunning intelligence. (google)

If you wanted to focus on the charming or neutral tone, then consider the following synonyms:

v. fascinate, mesmerize, enthrall

adj. riveting, compelling

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"Guile" involves the befuddling and subjugation of the target's objectivity, by the beguiler, in order for the beguiler to achieve his goal.

The goal may be altruistic or nefarious, but the fact remains that, through manipulation of his target, the beguiler's aim is to cajole acceptance of his views by the target.

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