1. Her energetic activities in the function belied her old age.

  2. He could not belie his identity with all the makeover.

Is the usage of belie correct?


3 Answers 3


In those examples, belie and hide are interchangeable because they can share a common meaning of giving a false impression of.

Hide can also mean to conceal (in the sense of giving a false impression). Hide is more the physical act of avoiding being found. For example, the following sentence would not be a synonym of belie.

The boy hides in the bushes.

  • 2
    You are right. Indeed "The boy belies in the bushes" could, according to an altogether different meaning of "belie" indicate that the boy was having sexual intercourse in the bushes!
    – WS2
    Jan 7, 2019 at 19:24
  • 3
    Note that the main difference here is that "belie" must be transitive while "hide" can be either transitive or intransitive. This is the main difference between your example and those in the original question. Jan 7, 2019 at 20:38

Belie is a verb with two distinct meanings, and one of those has many different senses. Essentially it means "to tell a lie about something". But the sense you are interested in here is OED sense 3c - as follows:

3c. To disguise (a person or thing); to conceal the true character or identity of; to conceal the fact of. Chiefly literary.

1610 G. Fletcher Christs Victorie 35 A painted face, belied with vermeyl store.

1634 Bp. J. Hall Contempl. Hist. New Test. (STC 12640.7) i. 435 If we had been on the Scaffold to see a man challenging the dogs in the disguise of a Bears-hide, would we have said, Now two beasts are fighting? The Shape therefore may well belie the Substance.

1697 Dryden Alexander's Feast ii. 2 A Dragon's fiery Form bely'd the God: Sublime on Radiant Spires He rode.

1725 E. Fenton in Pope et al. tr. Homer Odyssey I. iv. 618 A Boar's obscener shape the God belies.

1730 Pope Temple of Fame in Wks. III. 154 His horn'd head bely'd the Libian God.

1759 J. Fortescue Diss., Ess. & Disc. I. xxiii Flow'ry deceit, and dark-designing fraud; Hypocrisy, with cherub-face belied, Mask'd hatred, quer'lous strife, and envy rude.

1810 A. Cunningham et al. Remains Nithsdale & Galloway Song 280 To belie the form of God in the unholy semblance of cats.

1863 M. Oliphant Rector & Doctor's Family viii. 146 in Chrons. Carlingford Spring had begun to show faintly in the lengthening days—spring, that so often belies itself, and comes with a serpent's tooth.

1970 L. Deighton Bomber (1972) xi. 151 The grimy condition of the coasters was belied by the fresh rain that had glossed their decks and given their hulls the polish of old jackboots.

  • His eye movement from left to right when reading a language that needs to be read from right to left belies his ignorance of the language. Is this usage correct?.
    – Mathew KJ
    Jan 7, 2019 at 15:52
  • "Hide", on the other hand, is what my dad is going to tan if he finds me using the Internet.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 7, 2019 at 20:19
  • Really, "contradicts" better captures the essence of the meaning of "belie" in this sense and most of its senses than "conceals". When something that belies conceals it does so by contradicting what you would expect from something.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 8, 2019 at 0:07
  • @ohwilleke In the 1970 example above, it would seem that "concealed" would be an equally close synonym of "belied" as "contradicted" would be. We are probably discussing angels on a pinhead here.
    – WS2
    Jan 8, 2019 at 13:00

My impression is that while the second sentence appears to be grammatically sound, it isn't idiomatic:

#He could not belie his identity with all the makeup.

In the usage I've seen, the object of belie is never a person, but rather a thing, a concept, or an attribute. For example, we have (from this article)

[H]is actions in the following weeks belied his apology.

which has the meaning "his actions in the following weeks made his apology seem to be a lie." However, the sentences

#He belied his apology with his actions in the following weeks.

#He belied his apology by his actions in the following weeks.

do not seem like something an American English speaker would say.

That said, I have been unable to find a citation describing this usage, so it's possible that I'm off-base. I will report back if I find anything definitive.

  • "His actions in the following weeks belied his apology. " Would you please rephrase this sentence replacing the word 'belie' so that I can clearly understand the meaning and usage?
    – Mathew KJ
    Jan 8, 2019 at 4:49

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