chi·​ca·​nery | \ shi-ˈkān-rē How to pronounce chicanery (audio) , -ˈkā-nə-, chi-\
plural chicaneries

Definition of chicanery

1 : deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry : trickery He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes.
2 : a piece of sharp practice (as at law) : trick resorted to political chicaneries financial chicaneries

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Chicanery Has Roots in French

We have hardly any words that do so fully expresse the French clinquant, naiveté … chicaneries. So lamented English writer John Evelyn in a letter to Sir Peter Wyche in 1665. Evelyn and Wyche were members of a group called the Royal Society, which had formed a committee emulating the French Academy for the purpose of "improving the English language." We can surmise that, in Evelyn's estimation, the addition of chicanery to English from French was an improvement. What he apparently didn't realize was that English speakers had adopted the word from the French chicanerie before he wished for it; the term appears in English manuscripts dating from 1609. Similarly, clinquant ("glittering with gold or tinsel") dates from 1591. Naïveté, on the other hand, waited until 1673 to appear.

Examples of chicanery in a Sentence

He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes. that candidate only won the election through chicanery

Recent Examples on the Web

In Britain Mr Johnson’s parliamentary chicanery is doing the constitution permanent damage. The Economist, "The corrupting of democracy," 29 Aug. 2019 The potential for chicanery hasn’t disappeared by any stretch. Paul Waldman, The Denver Post, "Waldman: Democrats’ chances of taking Senate just got better," 28 Aug. 2019 Meanwhile, PowerPoint presentations and investigative reports containing allegations of all sorts of byzantine chicanery by Amazon began circulating last year. James Bandler, ProPublica, "How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon," 22 Aug. 2019 The government has also resorted to constitutional chicanery, exploiting the fact that Kashmir’s state legislature—which would normally have to assent to such changes—was dissolved over a year ago. The Economist, "Modi’s revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy," 9 Aug. 2019 The Tory faithful were undeterred by Mr Johnson’s reputation for chaos and chicanery. The Economist, "Boris Johnson’s approval ratings are surprisingly high," 23 July 2019 None of this chicanery would have been egregious enough to catch the Supreme Court’s attention even if last week’s ruling went the other way. Steve Mulroy, The New Republic, "To Beat the Gerrymander, Think Outside the Lines," 8 July 2019 When a competition was held to decorate the Sala dell’Albergo at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Tintoretto was said to have resorted to chicanery. Washington Post, "Seeing Tintoretto is Venice is very nice. But so is seeing his works in a well-lit museum.," 27 June 2019 That included this bit of chicanery from the Angels’ Hansel Robles, who definitely got a bit under Guerrero’s skin with this hesitation on the mound. Jon Tayler,, "Mickey Callaway Should Have Been Fired for Reporter Confrontation," 25 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chicanery.' 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 chicanery

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chicanery

see chicane entry 1

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20 Sep 2019

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The first known use of chicanery was in 1609

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More Definitions for chicanery



English Language Learners Definition of chicanery

formal : actions or statements that trick people into believing something that is not true : deception or trickery

More from Merriam-Webster on chicanery

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chicanery

Nglish: Translation of chicanery for Spanish Speakers

Comments on chicanery

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


concealment of treason or felony

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