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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Michele Faissola, Sadeq Sayeed and Giuseppe Mussari — formerly of Deutsche, Nomura and Paschi — were among 13 executives sentenced to jail, the most senior bankers convicted of crisis-era chicanery. Washington Post, "Why Deutsche Bank’s Monte Paschi Scandal Still Matters," 11 Nov. 2019 The result is a mix of family adventure, personal reflection, political chicanery and historical context. Ben Long, Outdoor Life, "Q&A: Mark Kenyon talks about his new book and the importance of keeping public land public," 7 Jan. 2020 The decades-long gray-zone conflict between Iran and the United States manifested itself in subterfuge, terrorism, technological combat, financial chicanery, and proxy forces. Matthew Continetti, National Review, "Trump Calls the Ayatollah’s Bluff," 3 Jan. 2020 After 39 seasons of backstabbing and chicanery, Survivor finally conceded that a community without any purpose beyond winning can turn depraved and cry out for outside intervention. Noam Cohen, Wired, "The TV Show ‘Survivor’ Can Help Us Understand Impeachment," 17 Dec. 2019 Such chicanery was more specifically banned by MLB in a multi-page memo distributed before the 2019 season, but use of such technology was certainly verboten in ’17 – when the Astros won the first World Series championship in franchise history. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "With latest sign-stealing revelations, Houston Astros once again toe baseball's ethical lines," 12 Nov. 2019 Get our daily newsletter Mr Putin would like to have the world believe that his country’s approach to the continent is about more than chicanery. The Economist, "Vladimir Putin flaunts Russia’s increasing influence in Africa," 24 Oct. 2019 Safety Daniel Etter took on the enforcer’s role, staying close to the Axe in case any chicanery unfolded. Bruce Jenkins,, "Go ahead, Cal, call it The Drive," 23 Nov. 2019 Not only does that come off as a bizarre bit of business chicanery, but some of you may remember that around 2011 or so Bethesda reputedly tried to starve out Human Head to force an acquisition. PCWorld, "This week in games: Sonic loses his teeth, John Carmack steps back from Oculus," 11 Nov. 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.

See More

First Known Use of chicanery

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chicanery

see chicane entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about chicanery

Time Traveler for chicanery

Time Traveler

The first known use of chicanery was in 1609

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about chicanery

Statistics for chicanery

Last Updated

25 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Chicanery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for chicanery


How to pronounce chicanery (audio)

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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