chi·​ca·​nery shi-ˈkān-rē How to pronounce chicanery (audio)
plural chicaneries
: deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry : trickery
He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes.
: a piece of sharp practice (as at law) : trick
resorted to political chicaneries
financial chicaneries

Did you know?

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 There are exciting scenes of sales charts, corporate confetti, cash, and pills, as well as lots of screaming and chicanery. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 6 Sep. 2023 The point stressed is chicanery, congratulating political shenanigans, not the forefathers’ wisdom. Armond White, National Review, 5 July 2023 And there are some genuinely affecting, powerful moments once all the chicanery is set aside. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 8 June 2023 Finally, another pulse aimed at both Bob and the intermediary atom simultaneously transmitted the message to Bob and made a measurement there, completing the energy chicanery. Tara C. Smith, Quanta Magazine, 23 Feb. 2023 Yet Zadi delights, with bitter humor, in the chicanery, double-dealing, and backstabbing that take place behind the scenes of political life. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 25 Jan. 2023 Essentially, a tiny minority of people at the top of Lebanese society managed to divert a good chunk of global income flows and the vast majority of what Lebanon actually does produce into their own pockets, through a combination of chicanery and outright corruption. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, 6 Aug. 2020 Kerry implied that such chicanery contributed to his defeat in 2004 and former Vice President Al Gore’s loss in 2000, maintaining that this pattern unfolded recently in Georgia — an apparent reference to Stacey Abrams’s defeat in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 19 June 2020 But the chicaneries of 1968 and 1980 were left to historians and partisans to sort out and debate decades later. Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, 25 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'chicanery.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from French chicanerie "quibbling on minor points of law brought up to complicate a judicial case," going back to Middle French chiquanerie, from chicaner "to dispute by means of quibbles," earlier "to sue, prosecute" + -erie -ery — more at chicane entry 1

Note: Randle Cotgrave's French-English dictionary (1611) defines chicanerie as "wrangling, pettifogging; litigious, or craftie pleading; the perplexing of a cause with trickes; or the pestering thereof with (subtile, but) impertinent words."

First Known Use

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of chicanery was in 1589


Dictionary Entries Near chicanery

Cite this Entry

“Chicanery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


chi·​ca·​nery shik-ˈān-(ə-)rē How to pronounce chicanery (audio)
plural chicaneries
: clever trickery

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