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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.


  • 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.]
    • 1631, [Francis Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] VVilliam Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], OCLC 1044372886:
      In laughing, there ever procedeth a conceit of somewhat ridiculous.
    • 1611, King James Version, Proverbs 26:12
      a man wise in his own conceit
    • 1922, H. P. Lovecraft, “The Tomb”, in The Vagrant:
      It was after a night like this that I shocked the community with a queer conceit about the burial of the rich and celebrated Squire Brewster []
  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, Clarissa, Letter 345:
      [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 228727523:
      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: Printed for W. Lewis [], published 1711, OCLC 15810849:
      Some to conceit alone their works confine, / And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line.
    • 1679, John Dryden, The 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 57395299, 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 0362-4331:
      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.
  2. (obsolete, transitive) To conceive.
    • 1698, Robert South, Twelve Sermons upon Several Subjects and Occasions:
      The strong, by conceiting themselves weak, are therebly rendered as inactive [] as if they really were so.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene i]:
    • 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.

Further reading[edit]

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of conceyte