artifice

noun
ar·​ti·​fice | \ ˈär-tə-fəs \

Definition of artifice

1a : 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
2a : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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).

Examples of artifice in a Sentence

He spoke without artifice or pretense. The whole story was just an artifice to win our sympathy.

Recent Examples on the Web

But there’s also a feverish focus on exuberant color, artifice-laden compositions and perceptual plays that slip back and forth across the thresholds between reality and fantasy, nature and culture. Gayle Clemans, The Seattle Times, "Artists at Winston Wächter gallery construct enticing ‘Summer Dreams’," 30 July 2018 Staycation embodies that wince-inducing sense of artifice. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Made-Up Travel Words We Love to Hate," 18 July 2018 Beneath all the artifice, though, the same old turkey remains. Elizabeth G. Dunn And Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "The Battle for Thanksgiving Heats Up," 31 Oct. 2018 The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. Avery Matera, Teen Vogue, "Met Gala 2019 Theme: Everything You Need to Know About "Camp: Notes on Fashion"," 11 Oct. 2018 The cupcake-eating scene is jarring in a way that breaks the artifice of performance, injecting a sense of suspense through sheer, persistent weirdness. Megan Burbank, The Seattle Times, "Kiki Abba, frank body-image talk and a cupcake keep ‘Everything You Touch’ on track," 25 Sep. 2018 The filmmaker’s sense of humor relies on establishing an exquisite artificial universe and then puncturing the artifice with familiar, deadpan American voices and attitudes for comic effect. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "'Isle of Dogs': Wes Anderson's desolate canine tale of loyalty," 26 Mar. 2018 His cleverness can feel more artifice than organic. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "The Annoying Genius Who Makes the World Cup Worth Watching," 5 July 2018 Our fears, though, are all for the anxious couple, whose genuine decency and vulnerability pierce the movie’s artifice and shame Nancy’s posturing. Christina Choe, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Nancy,’ a Troubled Woman Seeks Connection," 7 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of artifice

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for artifice

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about artifice

Listen to Our Podcast about artifice

Statistics for artifice

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for artifice

The first known use of artifice was in 1540

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for artifice

artifice

noun

English Language Learners Definition of artifice

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

artifice

noun
ar·​ti·​fice | \ ˈär-tə-fəs \

Kids Definition of artifice

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

artifice

noun
ar·​ti·​fice | \ ˈär-tə-fəs \

Legal Definition of artifice

: a clever strategy usually intended to deceive or defraud

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on artifice

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for artifice

Spanish Central: Translation of artifice

Nglish: Translation of artifice for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of artifice for Arabic Speakers

Comments on artifice

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to settle judicially or to act as judge

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!