chi·ca·nery | \-ˈkān-rē, -ˈkā-nə-\
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

Revelations about pernicious advertising by Russian operatives, chicanery by Cambridge Analytica, and questionable sharing of user data have left many Americans skeptical about Facebook . Daniel Gallant, WSJ, "How to Beat the Zuckerberg Casino," 8 July 2018 There’s no need and no reason other than the exercise of political chicanery for American children to be separated from their parents, brothers, sisters and other family members in the United States. Fabiola Santiago, miamiherald, "Another separation crisis looms – this time for some 273,000 American children," 12 July 2018 But the author clearly revels just as much in intricately capturing the chicanery outside the ropes that continues to mar the sport’s reputation to this day. Chris Brodeur,, "UConn Professor Chronicles Rocky Marciano's Rise Set Against Boxing's Murky Underworld," 12 July 2018 Since the Brexit referendum, the public has witnessed a circus of chicanery, buffoonery and idiocy that Boris Johnson’s exit will only ease in the most marginal of fashions. Sean Williams, The New Republic, "England’s World Cup Team: the Anti-Brexit," 10 July 2018 So, Reid, through some procedural chicanery on the floor, altered the precedent on filibusters … for everything but Supreme Court nominees. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Reporter's Notebook: The Senate's path to confirming the next Supreme Court justice," 27 June 2018 Johnson County residents have largely tolerated this chicanery, in part because public spending is popular. The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, kansascity, "Johnson County home appraisals are up, but higher property taxes aren’t inevitable," 12 Mar. 2018 Coincidences come off as chicanery, and even his greatest achievements done with the best intentions seem somehow nefarious. Greg Howard, New York Times, "Al Sharpton, Reconsidered," 9 Mar. 2018 Zalewski could face accusations of political chicanery for stepping down rather than completing his term, especially if the mayor appoints Madigan ally Tabares. John Byrne,, "Longtime Ald. Michael Zalewski to step down next month; Emanuel will get to appoint replacement," 9 Apr. 2018

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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Last Updated

20 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for chicanery

The first known use of chicanery was in 1609

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More Definitions for chicanery



English Language Learners Definition of chicanery

: 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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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