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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English conceyte, formed from conceyven by analogy with pairs such as (Modern English) deceive~deceit, receive~receipt etc. Doublet of concept and concetto. Akin to Portuguese conceito.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈsiːt/
  • Rhymes: -iːt
  • (file)


conceit (countable and uncountable, plural conceits)

  1. (obsolete) Something conceived in the mind; an idea, a thought. [14th–18th c.]
  2. The faculty of conceiving ideas; mental faculty; apprehension.
    a man of quick conceit
  3. Quickness of apprehension; active imagination; lively fancy.
  4. (obsolete) Opinion, (neutral) judgment. [14th–18th c.]
  5. (now rare, dialectal) Esteem, favourable opinion. [from 15th c.]
    • 1499, John Skelton, The Bowge of Courte:
      By him that me boughte, than quod Dysdayne, / I wonder sore he is in suche cenceyte.
    • 1748, [Samuel Richardson], “Letter CCCXLV”, in Clarissa. Or, The History of a Young Lady: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to VII), London: [] S[amuel] Richardson;  [], →OCLC:
      [G]ive him thy thanks for putting her into conceit with the sex that thou hast given her so much reason to execrate.
  6. (countable) A novel or fanciful idea; a whim. [from 16th c.]
    • 1692, Roger L’Estrange, “ (please specify the fable number.) (please specify the name of the fable.)”, in Fables, of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists: [], London: [] R[ichard] Sare, [], →OCLC:
      On his way to the gibbet, a freak took him in the head to go off with a conceit.
    • 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: [] W. Lewis [], published 1711, →OCLC:
      Some to conceit alone their works confine, / And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line.
    • 1693, John Dryden, An Essay on Satire:
      Tasso [] is full of conceits [] which are not only below the dignity of heroic verse but contrary to its nature.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 1, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 7:
      By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
    • 2012, Lauren Elkin, Scott Esposito, The End of Oulipo?: An attempt to exhaust a movement:
      The book's main conceit is to make poetry from univocal words (words containing just one vowel) []
  7. (countable, rhetoric, literature) An ingenious expression or metaphorical idea, especially in extended form or used as a literary or rhetorical device. [from 16th c.]
    Coordinate terms: metaphor, simile, concetto
    • 1985 November 24, Gerald Jonas, “Science Fiction”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      The “cyberspace” conceit allows him to dramatize computer hacking in nontechnical language, although I wonder how much his somewhat florid descriptions of the “bodiless exultation of cyberspace” will mean to readers who have not experienced the illusion of power that punching the keyboard of even a dinky little word-processor can give.
    • 2009, Harold Bloom, John Donne, Infobase Publishing, →ISBN, page 16:
      In the next and final stanza, Donne expands the conceit of world exploration to present us with a further distinction between the spirituality of the lovers and the “map reader” and “sea-discoverers.”
    • 2020 January 22, Stuart Jeffries, “Terry Jones obituary”, in The Guardian[2]:
      Jones and Palin wrote and starred in The Complete and Utter History of Britain (1969) for LWT. Its conceit was to relate historical incidents as if TV had existed at the time.
  8. (uncountable) Overly high self-esteem; vain pride; hubris. [from 17th c.]
  9. Design; pattern.

Derived terms[edit]



conceit (third-person singular simple present conceits, present participle conceiting, simple past and past participle conceited)

  1. (obsolete) To form an idea; to think.
    • 1643, John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce[3]:
      Those whose [] vulgar apprehensions conceit but low of matrimonial purposes.
  2. (obsolete, transitive) To conceive.
    • 1599 (first performance), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene i]:
    • c. 1620s, Elizabeth Cary [misattributed to Henry Cary], The History Of the most unfortunate Prince King Edward II. [] , London: A.G. and F. P., published 1680, page 36:
      [T]his Medicine he conceits worse than the Disesase.
    • 1646, Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, V.23:
      That owls and ravens are ominous appearers, and presignifying unlucky events, as Christians yet conceit, was also an augurial conception.
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, 6th edition, volumes (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, →OCLC:
      The strong, by conceiting themselves weak, are therebly rendered as inactive [] as if they really were so.

Further reading[edit]

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of conceyte