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  • prestidigitation
  • audio pronunciation
  • \press-tuh-dij-uh-TAY-shun\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: sleight of hand, legerdemain
  • EXAMPLES

Her career as a magician began with feats of prestidigitation and illusion performed for her high school's annual talent shows.

"Mark Ruffalo plays a scruffy New York detective charged with bringing down the foursome, which has been recruited by some mysterious uber-magician to bamboozle the world with a series of high-profile crimes that appear to be acts of prestidigitation." — From a movie review by D. J. Palladino in the Santa Barbara Independent, June 5, 2013

  • DID YOU KNOW?

The secret to performing magic tricks is all in the hands—or at least, that's what is suggested by the etymologies of "prestidigitation" and its two synonyms "legerdemain" and "sleight of hand." The French word "preste" (from Italian "presto") means "quick" or "nimble," and the Latin word "digitus" means "finger." Put them together and—presto!—you've got "prestidigitation." Similarly, "legerdemain" was conjured up from the Middle French phrase "leger de main," which translates to "light of hand." The third term, "sleight of hand," involves the least etymological hocus-pocus; it simply joins "hand" with "sleight," meaning "dexterity."

Test Your Memory: What former Word of the Day begins with "h" and means "unfortunate" or "having no luck"? The answer is …

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