artifice

noun
ar·​ti·​fice | \ ˈär-tə-fəs How to pronounce artifice (audio) \

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

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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 Cohen has used the tension between artifice and reality to drum up more drama. Jensen Davis, The New Republic, "Andy Cohen’s Reality Television Fantasy," 7 May 2021 The easy, uncluttered prose reveals the connections between characters without artifice, and Silber can't resist highlighting life's paradoxes. Connie Ogle Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Secrets of Happiness,' by Joan Silber," 30 Apr. 2021 For the prices, these were all decent wines, straightforward and unpretentious, made without artifice. New York Times, "Be It a $10 Wine, or Much More, the Judgments Come Free," 29 Apr. 2021 And the stakes of those ends are, for all the artifice, far more real. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, "‘Gunda’: An Intimate Portrait of a Sow’s Life," 17 Apr. 2021 The artifice was to maintain morale, funding, careers and, presumably, belief among those on the frontline that there was an overriding success in their endeavor. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, "The lies that were told to sustain the US and UK mission in Afghanistan," 29 Apr. 2021 Stettheimer gloried in artifice, mingling reality and fantasy. Helen A. Cooper, WSJ, "Celebrating and Satirizing New York’s Aesthetes," 9 Apr. 2021 Frances is not just a one note rich lady and somewhere within all the artifice and pretention, there is a surprisingly moving tale about living while knowing that death is imminent. Lindsey Bahr, Star Tribune, "Review: Michelle Pfeiffer has a feast with 'French Exit'," 30 Mar. 2021 But The Human Voice, the director’s first English-language short, also stands alone as a work of pure Almodóvarian pain, absurdity, heightened artifice, and raw emotion. Rachel Handler, Vulture, "Almodóvar on The Human Voice, a Film Inspired by ‘Desperation’," 10 Mar. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of artifice

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for artifice

borrowed from Anglo-French & Middle French, "trade, craft, craftsmanship, contrivance," borrowed from Latin artificium "artistry, craftsmanship, craft, craftiness, cunning," from artific-, artifex "practitioner of an art, specialist, craftsman, creator" (from art-, ars "acquired skill, craftsmanship" + -fic-, -fex, agentive derivative of facere "to make, bring about, do") + -ium, denominal or deverbal suffix of function or state — more at art entry 1, fact

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The first known use of artifice was in 1540

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Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Artifice.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifice. Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce artifice (audio) \

Kids Definition of artifice

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

artifice

noun
ar·​ti·​fice | \ ˈär-tə-fəs How to pronounce artifice (audio) \

Legal Definition of artifice

: a clever strategy usually intended to deceive or defraud

Comments on artifice

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