Is there any phrase or expression that can be used to indicate that someone who does not actually know something (about someone else) is trying to pretend as if they knew it (or talking in such a way that implies they already know it) to maliciously extract information from another person or get that person to admit it?

For example,

John: Hey, Jimmy, How's the new project? Jimmy: What project?

John is pretending to know something that may or may not be true to gather information.

Edit: The word is not exactly "bluffing". Bluffing is more like lying or bragging.

I heard an exact match in a movie. I cannot remember what the verb was:

I was trying to _______ on you.

  • Bluffing matches your request, and playing dumb matches your example of pretending not to know. Dec 31, 2020 at 19:34
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin: Playing dumb is closer to what I mean but is there something better than that?
    – Plexus
    Dec 31, 2020 at 19:36
  • @DecapitatedSoul: No, I heard something is a movie that was an exact match but can't remember it, couldn't find that in any of the answers in those two links. I don't know the name of the movie :P
    – Plexus
    Dec 31, 2020 at 19:42
  • You should have actually said in your question: "Jimmy is pretending NOT to know". That's what you would need in your context. Confusing the way you put it
    – fev
    Dec 31, 2020 at 19:49

2 Answers 2


That's called bluffing

Cambridge defines it as:

to deceive someone by making them think either that you are going to do something when you really have no intention of doing it, or that you have knowledge that you do not really have, or that you are someone else


  • Is he going to jump or is he only bluffing?

  • Tony seems to know a lot about music, but sometimes I think he's only bluffing.

  • She bluffed the doorman into thinking that she was a reporter.

Forced edit: You could also use fake, feign or sham. For more synonyms, help yourself from WordHippo

As for pretending not to know, you can choose between:

  • play/act the fool
  • play stupid (clearly informal)
  • act innocent

Check out the definition of play stupid in the Urban dictionary

Pretending to be ignorant to get out of trouble
  • DVing because your question was not clear and then editing your question is really not fair.
    – fev
    Dec 31, 2020 at 19:32
  • I gave up... Our OP doesn't remember even the meaning of what he is looking for. I am just wondering: is giving up part of the adapting bit or of dying :0?!?
    – fev
    Dec 31, 2020 at 20:27

I suggest that the person is dissimulating. The word may be applied to the hiding of many things including ignorance so is not unique to ignorance. However, if applied to ignorance, it is reasonable to suppose that the motive is for gain such as extracting knowledge or eliciting an admission.

dissimulate =

to hide under a false appearance

"She smiled to dissimulate her urgency"

Merriam Webster

= to hide your real feelings, character, or intentions

Cambridge dictionary

The Oxford dictionary adds concealment of thought to the list of hidden things.

Oxford Lexico

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