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noun ar·ti·fice \ˈär-tə-fəs\

Simple Definition of artifice

  • : dishonest or insincere behavior or speech that is meant to deceive someone

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of artifice

  1. 1 a :  clever or artful skill :  ingenuity <believing that characters had to be created from within rather than with artifice — Garson Kanin> b :  an ingenious device or expedient

  2. 2 a :  an artful stratagem :  trick b :  false or insincere behavior <social artifice>

Examples of artifice in a sentence

  1. He spoke without artifice or pretense.

  2. The whole story was just an artifice to win our sympathy.

Did You Know?

Do great actors display artifice or art? Sometimes a bit of both. "Artifice" stresses creative skill or intelligence, but also implies a sense of falseness and trickery. "Art" generally rises above such falseness, suggesting instead an unanalyzable creative force. Actors may rely on some of each, but the personae they display in their roles are usually artificial creations. Therein lies a lexical connection between "art" and "artifice." Artifice derives from "artificium," Latin for artifice (that root also gave English "artificial"). "Artificium" in turn developed from "ars," the Latin root underlying the word art (and related terms such as "artist" and "artisan").

Origin of artifice

Middle French, from Latin artificium, from artific-, artifex artificer, from Latin art-, ars + facere

First Known Use: circa 1604

Synonym Discussion of artifice

trick, ruse, stratagem, maneuver, artifice, wile, feint mean an indirect means to gain an end. trick may imply deception, roguishness, illusion, and either an evil or harmless end <the tricks of the trade>. ruse stresses an attempt to mislead by a false impression <the ruses of smugglers>. stratagem implies a ruse used to entrap, outwit, circumvent, or surprise an opponent or enemy <the stratagem-filled game>. maneuver suggests adroit and skillful avoidance of difficulty <last-minute maneuvers to avert bankruptcy>. artifice implies ingenious contrivance or invention <the clever artifices of the stage>. wile suggests an attempt to entrap or deceive with false allurements <used all of his wiles to ingratiate himself>. feint implies a diversion or distraction of attention away from one's real intent <a feint toward the enemy's left flank>.

art, skill, cunning, artifice, craft mean the faculty of executing well what one has devised. art implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power <the art of choosing the right word>. skill stresses technical knowledge and proficiency <the skill of a glassblower>. cunning suggests ingenuity and subtlety in devising, inventing, or executing <a mystery plotted with great cunning>. artifice suggests technical skill especially in imitating things in nature <believed realism in film could be achieved only by artifice>. craft may imply expertness in workmanship <the craft of a master goldsmith>.

ARTIFICE Defined for Kids


noun ar·ti·fice \ˈär-tə-fəs\

Definition of artifice for Students

  1. :  a clever trick or device <She used every artifice to avoid work.>

Law Dictionary


noun ar·ti·fice \ˈär-tə-fəs\

Legal Definition of artifice

  1. :  a clever strategy usually intended to deceive or defraud

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up artifice? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

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