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What’s Perfidy?

It’s basically deceit. Those who, say, overthrow a legitimate government are seen as perfidious, although partisans’ opinions may vary. Here is what the Oxford online dictionary says:



mass noun literary

  • The state of being deceitful and untrustworthy.

    ‘it was an example of his perfidy’
    ‘Hapsburg perfidy’


Late 16th century: via French from Latin perfidia, from perfidus ‘treacherous’, based on per- ‘to ill effect’ + fides ‘faith’.


treachery, duplicity, deceit, deceitfulness, disloyalty, infidelity, faithlessness, unfaithfulness, betrayal, treason, double-dealing, untrustworthiness, breach of trust; literary perfidiousness.

Captain Bartholomew Roberts, (the pirate Black Bart, c., 1719.) Notice how respectable he looks.

In war, perfidy is a form of deception in which one side promises to act in good faith (such as by raising a flag of truce) with the intention of breaking that promise once the unsuspecting enemy is exposed. Perfidy constitutes a breach of the laws of war and so is a war crime, as it degrades the protections and mutual restraints developed in the interest of all parties, combatants, and civilians.

In the context of peace, it could be anything from having a secret love affair to undermining and corrupting public institutions. There’s a lot of it at the national level from politicians succumbing to moneyed interests, ballot box rigging, and manufacturing or wholesaling lies for public consumption. Some of the lies we get are just everyday dissembling, some are bald propaganda, and a lot are what’s loosely called “fake news.”

Extremely respectable former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (Financial Times via WikiMedia)

Perfidy is what the protagonists of my 2018 novel have vowed to combat with some of their own, using extreme measures. Read its first chapter, if you like. Find it at these online stores, most of which let you take a peek inside.

And the perfidy of a corrupt cop is what faces heroine Anna in my next novel, Her Own Devices. Perfidy, or even the suspicion of it, erodes social bonds by not knowing whom to trust to do the right thing.

Over on the sidebar you’ll find some recent posts (and more on back pages), some concerned with perfidy, some not. Those that are attempt to expose and deconstruct perfidious behavior. Other are literary rambles—craft essays, memoirs, appreciations, book reviews, and whatnot.

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See you later, agitator.