I'm looking for a succinct verb for "to direct attention away from" or "to cause others to ignore" something.


The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only ignored, but actively [XXX].

Undermine, undercut, discredit, suppress, bury, and cover up are too strong. In the hypothetical, the regulators weren't trying to gainsay or hide their own fact (which after all they didn't need to include). They were just effectively saying, "move along, nothing to see here!" In other words, they were comfortable with the clue, but perhaps not what the clue might lead to.

  • Why is discredit not the right word? It's a good fit for your "move along, nothing to see here". I.e., yes the fact exists, but it's irrelevant and nobody, including us, should pay attention to it.
    – John Feltz
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:17
  • @JohnFeltz, the OP is apparently looking for a euphemism. Oct 21, 2016 at 8:05
  • @bongbang "red herring"
    – SAH
    Nov 1, 2016 at 22:07

13 Answers 13



The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only ignored, but actively underplayed.

Underplay - To play down the importance of (something); to present less emphatically than usual (OED).

  • 10
    A good one, but the related downplayed seems perhaps even better — it’s more widely used, in my experience.
    – PLL
    Oct 21, 2016 at 8:28
  • 1
    @PLL Agreed - in fact, downplay also seems a little more accurate in that it sounds more like an active effort to minimize importance. Underplay sounds like it could be accidental.
    – talrnu
    Oct 21, 2016 at 11:30
  • @tairnu - not if you actively underplay. Downplay is possibly stronger than the OP seeks...?
    – Dan
    Oct 21, 2016 at 14:12

Perhaps words like 'distract' or 'divert' would work? Something could 'divert attention away from' or 'distract from' the issue at hand.

  • "distracted from" was the first thing that popped into y mind when reading the OP's example sentence. +1 Oct 21, 2016 at 4:42

How about obfuscated? This means they intentionally, or unintentionally, made the facts unclear or hard to understand.

  • I like this, however, it does mean that there is truth mixed with lies...So this might be hard to apply to a single piece of evidence.
    – Grantly
    Oct 21, 2016 at 16:52

How about minimized ordownplayed?

The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only ignored, but actively minimized.

The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only ignored, but actively downplayed.

From M-W:

minimize: to treat or describe (something) as smaller or less important than it is

downplay: to make (something) seem smaller or less important


Whitewash perhaps. But it doesn't quite fit the requirement of meaning the same as dismissed.

Whitewash colloquially can mean to downplay something, or gloss over it as if it has little importance, hiding its true profundity. It has the element of deception that you require, without the harshness. Or even more metaphorically - to paint something that is black/dark/sinister with a white paint so it looks 'good'.

(Whereas dismiss - does not necessarily mean that there is the intention to reduce the impact of something. And similar words - do not imply that the meaning has been deliberately altered )

In your statement '...not only ignored, but actively'...it implies that 'they' did actively try to alter the meaning or impact of the evidence. That is why Whitewash will fit as it implies changing the meaning or appearance of something actively (or passively, but nonetheless to change it)

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitewashing_%28censorship%29


You should consider trivialize.

The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only ignored, but actively trivialized.


trivialize (also trivialise) VERB

[WITH OBJECT] Make (something) seem less important, significant, or complex than it really is.
‘the problem was either trivialized or ignored by teachers’
‘Doctors and authorities have attempted to dismiss and trivialise those sorts of health effects, and have said they have nothing to do with the spray, so they are not included in the health statistics.’


Most words already suggested get close to the point, but they doesn't really fit the hypothetical sentence. It's not easy to actively xxx a subject while also ignoring it.

The term that comes to my mind is misdirect from misdirection in the sense of a magician's sleight-of-hand routine. In the hypothetical sentence the regulators/authors would not only ignore their minor mention of the fraud elsewhere in the report, but they would also actively misdirect report readers away from the fraud by building up other unrelated minor infractions into the seemingly biggest bombshells reported.


Reading the sentence (which might be an example, but also might not) I have a sense of it being... wrong.

It's context does not lend itself to the whole idea - you want a word which is (what I would call) passive, but trying to use it with word "active".

What you ask in essence is to have a sentence:

The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud, which they not only failed to appreciate, but actively ignored

Which would be my proposal.



to hide under a false appearance

"Dissimulate." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.


: to turn from something by persuasion

"Dissuade." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Dissuaded isn't quite a drop-in here - it needs a little help. "The regulators' own report contains a clue to the fraud. A clue which they not only ignored, but seemingly also dissuaded the reader from considering further."



From Merriam Webster

to make (something) seem smaller or less important


I like misdirect or misdirection - although the OP's sentence may have to be slightly restructured to accommodate it.

Miriam-Webster defines misdirect as:

to use or direct (something) in a way that is not correct or appropriate

Misdirection is a technique used by magicians (and con artists) to draw the focus of their audience away from an important detail and redirect it to something insignificant; which is quite apt for the OP's context.


I think you're suggesting that the regulators "suppressed" the fact. In other words, it clearly should have drawn their attention (and the attention of their audience), but they actively chose to avoid allowing that to happen.


Well, after checking all the other answers, I am surprised that this one wasn't suggested:


From Dictionary.com: extenuate [ik-sten-yoo-eyt]

verb (used with object), extenuated, extenuating.

  1. to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious: "to extenuate a crime."
  2. to serve to make (a fault, offense, etc.) seem less serious.
  3. to underestimate, underrate, or make light of: "Do not extenuate the difficulties we are in."
  4. (Archaic.) a.) to make thin, lean, or emaciated. or b.) to reduce the consistency or density of.

Hope that helps.

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