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 There are actually similarities between the parts, in the sense that Frank is striving for the good life and using artifice to achieve it. Brian Lowry, CNN, "Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney earn high marks in 'Bad Education'," 24 Apr. 2020 At Guernica, Chris Dennis reconciles his love of Dolly Parton despite her ironic combination of down-home folksiness, vulnerability, and painted artifice. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "On Dolly Parton and Being Seen," 7 Apr. 2020 Pop music relishes in artifice, but what Harry seemed to be getting at with his Lizzo praise is that there's a way to present fiction that feels just as true, and just as good, as fact. P. Claire Dodson, Teen Vogue, "Harry Styles Performed One Direction Songs, “Fine Line” at Secret Session," 29 Feb. 2020 Canadian values While the comedy is built around the clash of cultures, from the beginning the townspeople accept the artifice and eccentricities of siblings David and Alexis Rose, and the overdone lexicon of Moira. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Canadians see themselves in ‘Schitt’s Creek’," 8 Apr. 2020 The collection intersperses flash-length stories that can feel a little thin compared with the longer ones that allow readers to watch with rapt attention as each protagonist spirals out of his or her artifice. New York Times, "Two Lies and a Truth: Story Collections Exploring the Spectrum of Human Honesty," 10 Mar. 2020 The obvious artifice undercuts any tension, despite beautiful scenery and a musical score that works overtime to build excitement. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Call of the Wild' gets caught in a no-dog's land between live-action and animation," 20 Feb. 2020 Their show will feature 16 artist interventions that contend with issues of representation in all its guises — pieces that explore Hollywood stereotypes and how the industry fashions perception and others that dwell on artifice. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Today: Can D.C. get anything else done?," 7 Feb. 2020 Otherwise, the only flashes of cinematic artifice come via the cold, quick pulse of Evgueni and Sacha Galperine’s score at the most white-knuckle moments in proceedings. NBC News, "'Welcome to Chechnya' documents Russian region's anti-gay purge," 29 Jan. 2020

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

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

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Time Traveler for artifice

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The first known use of artifice was in 1540

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Last Updated

2 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Artifice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for artifice


How to pronounce artifice (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of artifice

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


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.


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

Legal Definition of artifice

: a clever strategy usually intended to deceive or defraud

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