For example

  • In Sim Lim Square cheat cases, a person paid $1k for iPhone insurance. He "agreed" to buy it because the price was not clearly written.
  • In some restaurants, prices are not written clearly and people can then be charged exorbitant prices.
  • Insurance costs can vary by up to 100 times because the cost is simply not written clearly.
  • Many politicians use deceptive language. Also, they tend to tell only the benefits without telling the negatives.
  • Say you are a scientist. You have 10 studies supporting your theory and 90 studies showing you are wrong. You only quote the 10 studies to people that can't expect.

All of these are deceptions that would make people choose really really "bad deals". Is there a word to describe such deceptions?

Lying? Sophism? Fraud? Scam? Pull a fast one? What?

  • 5
    You asked for a single word, but does it have to be? My first thought would be the fairly common phrase "lying by omission", which immediately makes it clear that you consider it as bad as any other lie. If you're open to phrases as answers, I can post it as such.
    – hvd
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:17
  • Are you asking about intentional or unintentional deception?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 4:28
  • 2
    The last is commonly referred to as "cherry picking".
    – jimm101
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 1:25
  • There are 2 votes to reopen this question, but as it stands it I would then vote to close it again as it is a SWR that fails to show how the word would be used. It can be rescued from that fate by a further edit. Meanwhile, I'm voting to keep it closed because, as the prompt says, "This question is not appropriate for the site in its current state." Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 22:24
  • @ChappoHasn'tForgottenMonica, the expectation that a sample sentence be provided is a useful prophylactic against confusion and unclarity. This question is, however, quite clear as it is, as can be seen by the fact that it has received twenty answers; some of them are good, some less so, but it doesn't seem that the answerers had any difficulty understanding what the OP was getting at.
    – jsw29
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 16:45

20 Answers 20



One can be misled into thinking something, even if no lies are involved. Doesn't necessarily rule out lying though.

The restaurant misled its customers by hiding information about extra charges

  • 1
    This term is insufficiently specific.
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 21:24

As found on the list of types of lying on Wikipedia:

Lying by omission

Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. Lying by omission includes the failure to correct pre-existing misconceptions. For example, when the seller of a car declares it has been serviced regularly but does not tell that a fault was reported at the last service, the seller lies by omission. It can be compared to dissimulation. An omission is when a person tells most of the truth, but leaves out a few key facts that therefore completely change the story.

I see that hvd also said this on the comments and I believe it is the single best way to describe the majority of the situations you described, Sharen. It's not a single word, but it captures the exceptional deceptiveness of the lie taking place. Not only is the person lying, they are going out of their way to hide it.

  • “lying by omission” specifically refers to omitting facts entirely. In the case of hidden cost that’s not the case. The costs are stated. Just in a roundabout and non-obvious way. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 20:12
  • @KonradRudolph that might justify a new question with an explicit example of a hidden cost deception. At face value from the OPs question, the cost was omitted from the price tag.
    – Qsigma
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 8:11

As the answer from Mike R covers most of these cases almost perfectly, I'm suggesting a more specific alternative that can be used in the case of the politician and scientist in particular.

Bending the truth

to say something that is not completely true in order to achieve an aim
He doesn’t lie exactly – he just bends the truth.

For the first three examples, "fine print" is definitely the way to go. However, for the politician and scientists answer - they are "bending the truth".

Politician: Many politicians use deceptive language. Also, they tend to tell only the benefits without telling the negatives.

Here the politician isn't explicitly saying anything that can be said to be a lie. However, they are omitting facts in a way that they are bending the truth. That is, they are manipulating the truth so that it isn't telling the whole story, but also isn't a disprovable lie.

Scientist: Say you are a scientist. You have 10 studies supporting your theory and 90 studies showing you are wrong. You only quote the 10 studies to people that can't expect.

Again, the scientist isn't saying anything provably false here - they aren't just lying. However, they are bending the truth by abusing the information they have to show their theory in a better light. Again, nothing they say is a lie - but it's clear what they have done is not fully honest.

  • 1
    Another example from The Free Dictionary: Politicians often bend the truth to make themselves look better and their opponents look worse.
    – haha
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 21:26

This is misrepresentation. Refer to the very apt definition below in the context of business.



Fraudulent, negligent, or innocent misstatement, or an incomplete statement, of a material fact. If a specific misrepresentation induces the other party to enter into a contract, that party may have the legal right to rescind the contract or seek compensation for damages. The guilty party avail of the defense that the wronged party could have checked the facts and have discovered what was wrong. A misstatement of an intention or opinion is generally not considered a misrepresentation.


Such expressions are called a 'half-truth'.

A half-truth is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may use some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame or misrepresent the truth.


a statement that is intended to deceive by being only partly true


Russia spreading 'half-truths and half-lies' - Britain

NewsHub - 6th April 2018


deceit and deceive.

deceit: an act or device intended to deceive; trick; stratagem. That mobile carrier committed an awful act of deceit when it hid the truly exorbitant fees from its unwitting customers.

deceive: to mislead by a false appearance or statement. The insurance company deceived its customers by hiding the full price for the plan on page 9.

Hope that helps you!

  • Proposing words that come from the same root is not an answer. Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 22:19

Obfuscate is a good term. It aptly describes not dishonesty or ommision, but the clouding of information -- with the likely result being effects such as people paying for things they didn't expect.

Obfuscate: To obscure, confuse.

This word seems to fit the OPs examples because it touches on two aspects of information exchange that is less than completely transparent, without outright lying: Obfuscation hides or makes unclear necessary information, or provides information in a way that confuses.

  • 1
    Right, they are not clear, they obfuscate the pricing/price information. Lack of transparency in pricing is a real social scourge, in my opinion.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 22:19

The expression fine print comes to mind that you could use metaphorically to talk about all the situations that you described in your examples. People who get deceived like that usually don't take their time to carefully read the fine print that comes along with the deal to "hide" all possible negative aspects of it. I placed the word hide in quotes because, technically speaking, they're not hiding anything. They're just making it harder to read. I think this expression has truly become a metaphor in English. To use it properly though, you will have to put on your creative-thinking hat because this one does require some pretty good writing skills which I personally don't have.

Here's a couple of simple sentence examples: (Definitely not the best sentences in the world in terms of their literary value. I'm sure you will be able to come up with something much better.)

I got charged $200 for a simple meal in that restaurant. I guessed I should've read the fine print before ordering anything there. They didn't mention it explicitly anywhere in the menu that the bottle of wine was not complimentary. How naive of me! I got totally ripped off!

Before the election, the mayor promised everybody to build the bridge. That's what actually helped him win the mayoral election. But after the election, many realized that they should have read the fine print that it would only happen if there was enough money in the budget. Now, everybody feels like they have been lied to.

  • 1
    "fine print" doesn't fit his scientist example and politician example.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 9:16
  • @Zebrafish It doesn't if you don't know how to use metaphors in your writing. As I already said this one is tricky. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 9:21
  • @as4s4hetic Not really, the answerer has already admitted that in at least two of the examples their solution has to be used as a metaphor (at quite a stretch in my opinion), and isn't a single word. Also in at least two other of the examples the term may have to be used metaphorically, eg., a written or printed number appearing ambiguous has nothing to do with "fine print" literally. Not trying to start an argument, just saying what I think are facts.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 9:35
  • It's quite clear from the OP's question that by word they mean anything that would work in the context they provided. You can see that there is even an expression among the solutions they originally came up with: pull a fast one. And what's wrong with using metaphors? Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:18
  • @user69786 That's a good point. And nothing wrong with metaphors, just in my opinion the metaphor for two of them was stretching things a bit far. As far as single-word-requests go, I've seen unpredictably differing levels of reactions to conforming to this requirement. The idea behind single-word-requests is that they provide a sentence for us to go on. And they provided 5. As you said it's tricky.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 15:07

Cherry picking

Say you are a scientist. You have 10 studies supporting your theory and 90 studies showing you are wrong. You only quote the 10 studies to people that can't expect.

in the sciences specifically this is referred to as "cherry picking"; when someone only picks the best or "most correct" answers that happen to agree with what they were expecting to measure or observe. people can do this by mistake or subconsciously by continually re-testing something. every measurement has an error margin on it. if you keep re-testing it and re-finding the mean (average), the answer will drift over time; e.g. if a drug sample should measure 100μg/ml +/- 10μg/ml, but measures 112μg/ml to begin with, if you re-test it later that day it may then measure 109μg/ml and pass the +/-10μg/ml criteria purely due to the drug degrading or cumulative error in the dilutions, evaporation, measurement, etc. it's also referred to as "testing to fit"; if you bang a square shaped block into a round hole enough times with hammer, eventually it'll go through. this is actually much more common than it should be.


The person or document is weaseling or using weasel words. Merriam-Webster defines weasel word as:

a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position

The example M-W gives is:

◾“Reorganization” is just a weasel word that the company is using to say that jobs are being eliminated.

In the examples the OP gives, the phrases "up to" or "as little as" or "laboratory studies" might be the weasel-words (or weasel phrases) used, as in these made up examples:

We will pay you up to $300 dollars a day for every day you are out of work because of accidental injury. (They pay $300 per day only if the accident renders you a quadriplegic.)

The cost of to you of this service is as little as a few pennies per day. (Yes, but this is the bare bones service which gives you practically no service.)

Laboratory studies show that people who eat three helpings of X are less likely to get Y. (The laboratory is funded by the makers of X.)

You can "prove" anything you want to prove by the artful selection of weasel words without actually lying.


I don’t think the examples you’ve cited fit very well under one umbrella since they are quite different. Apologies for rehashing some of the existing replies — I’m showing where they work best:

  • In Sim Lim Square cheat cases, a person paid $1k for iPhone insurance. He "agreed" to buy it because the price was not clearly written.

Since there are convictions, this appears to be legally fraud.

  • In some restaurants, prices are not written clearly and people can then be charged exorbitant prices.

In general, this is deceptive. But it might also be illegal (depending on local law); in which case this might also be fraud.

  • Insurance costs can vary by up to 100 times because the cost is simply not written clearly.

Again, if done intentionally this may be legally fraud. If this can’t be proved, it remains, as mentioned elsewhere, fine print. Colloquially, it’s a scam.

  • Many politicians use deceptive language. Also, they tend to tell only the benefits without telling the negatives.

Well, we all know that politicians are dishonest; or, at the very least, biased.

  • Say you are a scientist. You have 10 studies supporting your theory and 90 studies showing you are wrong. You only quote the 10 studies to people that can't expect.

This is (a relatively weak form of) scientific misconduct, specifically selective or biased citation. But, if done as egregiously as in your example, you’ll often hear scientists call it “fraudulent” (for instance when referring to arguments by proponents of homoeopathy, or climate change denialists).



In all your cases.

1Behaving or prone to behave in an untrustworthy, deceitful, or insincere way. ‘he was a dishonest hypocrite prepared to exploit his family’

1.1 Intended to mislead or cheat.
‘he gave the editor a dishonest account of events’
Oxford Living Dictionaries

Dishonesty does not have to mean lying. For example:

"If you're going to mention A which supports your argument, you should be honest and mention B which damns your argument."

Omission is not necessarily lying.
(You can spend your entire life following debates about this being true or not)
Relates to telling "the truth", "the whole truth", "and nothing but the truth".
And also: "Why didn't you admit that?" "You never asked me about it."

The selective publishing of research results also falls into category of omission.

Creating possibility for ambiguity in signage, writing, or speech for one's own gain is not necessarily lying, but is dishonest if intentional.


I would say duplicitous, whose root word duplicity is defined as:

  1. deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.



Disingenuous not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does: this journalist was being somewhat disingenuous as well as cynical.


The question already mentions deception, my answer will build on that. This paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (all my quotes in this answer are from that paper) names 3 forms of deception and argues that they are distinct:

  1. Lying by omission (which has already been answered to this question link). This fits your fourth and fifth examples.

  2. Lying by commission, which the paper describes as "the active use of false statements" . This fits none of your examples.

  3. Paltering, which has been briefly mentioned in the comments, is the form of deception that is the focus of the aforementioned paper. My answer will argue that it fits the first three examples in your question.

The paper defines paltering as follows:

"Paltering is the active use of truthful statements to convey a misleading impression"

The paper goes on to characterise paltering from the view of the palterer (the one(s) deceiving) and their targets (the one(s) being deceived) as follows:

"palterers focus on the veracity of their statements (“I told the truth”), whereas targets focus on the misleading impression palters convey (“I was misled”)"

This seems to be in line with the first three examples. The one's doing the deceiving seem to be holding that they are telling the truth yet the ones being deceived will hold that they were misled. I will deal with the examples in order:

In the first three examples the defense of the deceiving party will be that what is written is correct and corresponds to the other party having to pay a lot of money. The one(s) being deceived will say that the writing was not clear, i.e. they were misled.

The fourth and fifth answers are cases of lying by omission because in both cases relevant facts have not been mentioned by the deceiver.

Attribution for the paper: Rogers, T., Zeckhauser, R., Gino, F., Norton, M. I., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2017). Artful paltering: The risks and rewards of using truthful statements to mislead others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(3), 456-473. doi:10.1037/pspi0000081

  • 1
    I think this is the correct answer, as the question implies the answer should be q verb: " ... word for lying without ..." All other answers including mine, are either unrelated nouns, or verbs only tangentially related with the essence of deceit. My own answer, verisimilar is only an adjective that would describe the result of some forms of Paltering. So today I learned that, but I'm confused as to why this didn't get a better score
    – hlecuanda
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 21:06
  • 1
    @hlecuanda thank you for your comment. I think it's also a bit of trick question, deceiving seems to be a perfectly good answer which is already mentioned in the question. The question asks for something more specific, but given the examples there may not be a more specific term which encapsulates all the examples. Like asking for a specific term for fruit, giving apples, coconuts and oranges as examples. They are so different that there may not be a subset of fruit which includes all three.
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 21:16

The word that comes to my mind is subterfuge

Deception used to achieve an end

a stratagem employed to conceal something

Example: Using subterfuge, they lured him into signing the contract.


How about "to omit"?

  • Omit: to leave out or leave unmentioned.

In these cases, we can say that "the price was omitted". However, it does not denote a negative behaviour per se.

As for your example about the scientist, this behaviour is called "cherry picking" and in this contest it's regarded as a logical fallacy.


A phrase common in Britain, used specifically by or about politicians, is "being economical with the truth".


There is a wonderful word that means exactly what you describe:


adjective:  veri·sim·i·lar  \ ˌver-ə-ˈsi-mə-lər , -ˈsim-lər \  

Definition of verisimilar

1: having the appearance of truth : probable

2: depicting realism (as in art or literature)


verisimilarly (adverb)

It implies basically a lie so well crafted that it's indistinguishable from truth at a glance, and is a favorite tool of damagogues, because the lie is not outrageous or outright callable, but would require analysis to discern where the misleading elements are.

So, by stating verisimilar facts, you're in fact liying, decieving and misleading in a way that can't be called out outright.

Furthermore, verisimilitude is not necesarily only conveyed with words, as marketers have learned over decades, context around the message is very much picked up as part of the message.

In politics its common for certain publications, for example, to cluster together several separate stories in a closely timed cluster to imply causality or connection, such as immigration related stories clustered together with minor police stories involving immigrants as perpetrators.

Each note stands as truth by itself, but clustering them close together is meant to create a verisimilar context where truth is usually more complex.

source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verisimilar

  • 1
    Did you read the examples? How can a menu be verisimilar? How can overcharging a client be verisimilar? How can Politicians' (word) promises be verisimilar? Verisimilar means truthlike, it comes from the Latin vērīsimilis which means similar to the truth. Where exactly is the falsity and deception implied?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 6:35
  • 1
    however verisimilitude is not truth, therefore it falls within the various flavors of a lie. A menu could be verismilar if it strongly implies through imagery that a certain dish contains, for example, milk. (picture aa cow, farmer carrying a bucket and a picture of the dish on a table) but it is not until you read the fne print that you find out you are eating a maltodxtrosin solution and soy extracts; or something of the sort.
    – hlecuanda
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 6:40
  • 1
    The dictionary definition do not support your arguments, from EOD ‘A common communication key is to use verisimilar seduction stories and characters’ and ‘Her pillars are the tools of her craft: authentic voices, well-researched vernacular, and moving, verisimilar details of daily life.’ Replace verisimilar with "realistic" and the meaning becomes clearer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 6:46
  • 1
    However, in academic papers, verisimilitude in politics is taken very much the way I propose, cfr: "White Authorship and the Counterfeit Politics of Verisimilitude on the Wire African Americans on Television: Racing for Ratings, D. Leonard & L. Guerrero, Praeger, 2013 " papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2374568
    – hlecuanda
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 6:58
  • 1
    That paper is probably talking the TV series "The Wire" as being realistic, I've never watched it but I have heard people praising its sense of realism. The stories and the acting feel truthful, but they're not "true", they are just representations of real life. See english.stackexchange.com/a/397561/44619
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 7:06


Bullshit or crap or similar expressions

"Excuse me, professor, but you're pulling your data out of your ass."

"Those price gouges are bullshit."

"Charging me extra for sour cream on the loaded nachos is crap."

"Everyone knows Donald Trump is full of shit."

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.