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 The prescience of Bergstrom and West’s methods now haunts us every day in the data chicanery underlying the Covid-19 catastrophe in the United States. C. Brandon Ogbunu, Wired, "Calling Bullshit Skewers the World’s BS Merchants," 4 Aug. 2020 Compared with the average wealthy nation, America spends nearly twice as much of its national wealth on health care, about a quarter of which is wasted on inefficient care, unnecessary treatments, and administrative chicanery. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "How the Pandemic Defeated America," 3 Aug. 2020 Forward to 2018 again, to the sense of chicanery and injustice around Stacey Abrams’ defeat in her run for governor of Georgia, balanced by Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives. al, "‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’ weaves past, present together," 2 July 2020 The abuses and intellectual chicanery of empire undoubtedly contributed to this., "Robots Pose Biggest Risk to the Poorest Countries," 29 Apr. 2020 Later, Shelby is again confronted by Beebe, whose mealy-mouthed bureaucratic jargon and weaselly chicanery inflects the entire drama. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Airbrushed Racing History of “Ford v Ferrari”," 19 Nov. 2019 Within four years, with Roosevelt now in the White House, American troops arrived to garrison the Isthmus of Panama, where the United States, employing considerable chicanery, was setting out to build a canal. Andrew J. Bacevich, Harper's magazine, "The Old Normal," 2 Mar. 2020 Rumours of violent chicanery have long haunted the first family. The Economist, "Murder in the mountains One first lady is dead in Lesotho. Another has fled," 25 Jan. 2020 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

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

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chicanery

see chicane entry 1

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The first known use of chicanery was in 1589

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Chicanery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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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

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Nglish: Translation of chicanery for Spanish Speakers

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