noun ar·ti·fice \ ˈär-tə-fəs \
|Updated on: 9 Aug 2018

Definition of artifice

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 a : an artful stratagem : trick
  • … revising the state's constitution through a series of legal stratagems and artifices
  • —W. Haywood Burns
b : false or insincere behavior
  • social artifice

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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.

Recent Examples of artifice from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'artifice.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The difference between art and artifice

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 and Etymology of artifice

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

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 English Language Learners


Definition of artifice for English Language Learners

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

ARTIFICE Defined for Kids


noun ar·ti·fice \ ˈär-tə-fəs \

Definition of artifice for Students

: 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

: a clever strategy usually intended to deceive or defraud

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