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

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Example Sentences

He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes. that candidate only won the election through chicanery
Recent Examples on the Web That this stunt could turn into an actual, lengthy—and potentially criminal—political scandal was never really considered despite the fact that there was no small amount of obvious chicanery involved. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 20 Sep. 2022 Blunt’s book is not a technical tome but a drama, a human tragedy, loaded with fascinating characters and tales of death and destruction, incompetence and chicanery, malfeasance and greed. Russ Mitchellstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 30 Aug. 2022 In one corner, various McGill relations moved up and down the legal stratosphere, juggling corporate law, frantic public defending, and elder-care chicanery. Darren Franich,, 12 July 2022 The idea that an elaborate system of chicanery might spur someone to honesty seems the dramatic and theoretical center of The Rehearsal. John Semley, The New Republic, 28 July 2022 Generally speaking, the average sports fan winked and laughed at the tales of college chicanery. Bob Ryan,, 22 July 2022 Yet even non-competitive cyclists persist in resorting to all manner of chicanery in order to keep their bikes kickstand-free. Eben Weiss, Outside Online, 16 Nov. 2021 Less than a decade ago, Rangers was reduced to playing in Scotland’s semiprofessional fourth tier as a punishment for years of financial mismanagement and chicanery. New York Times, 18 May 2022 It’s also raunchy, disgusting and full of deliberate chicanery. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 9 June 2022 See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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 2 Oct. 2022.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on chicanery

Last Updated: 26 Sep 2022

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.