flim·​flam | \ ˈflim-ˌflam How to pronounce flimflam (audio) \

Definition of flimflam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : deceptive nonsense


flimflammed; flimflamming

Definition of flimflam (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to subject to a flimflam

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from flimflam


flimflammer noun
flimflammery \ ˈflim-​ˌfla-​mə-​rē How to pronounce flimflammery (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?


English is full of words concerned with trickery and deception, ranging from the colorful "flimflam," "bamboozle," and "hornswoggle" to the more mundane "deceive," "mislead," and "delude." "Flimflam" first entered English as a noun meaning "deceptive nonsense" in the second half of the 16th century. A sense meaning "deception" or "fraud" soon developed. The verb use didn't show up until well into the next century. In addition to general deceiving or tricking, the verb "flimflam" is often used specifically to refer to swindling someone out of money. The ultimate origin of "flimflam" is uncertain, but the word is probably of Scandinavian origin and may be related to the Old Norse flim, meaning "mockery."

Examples of flimflam in a Sentence

Noun The report is just a lot of corporate flimflam. giving the new guy at work her cell phone number—“in case of an emergency”—was just a flimflam to pique his romantic interest Verb everyone likes to think that they're too smart to be flimflammed by anyone
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Might that statement actually be a bit of protective flimflam? Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "‘The Professor and the Parson’ tries to make sense of a narcissistic con man who fooled nearly everyone," 26 Feb. 2020 There’s always seemed to be a bit of flimflam behind that gigglemug of his. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "Nostalgia Is the Ace up Biden’s Sleeve," 4 Dec. 2019 Zirin does not get lost in the clouds of flimflam that have spewed out of Trump for decades, which other biographers have taken as their mission to prove or disprove. Washington Post, "Trump’s legal strategy: If you can’t beat the case, beat the system," 22 Nov. 2019 The telltale sign of political flimflam is a promise to deliver all the benefits associated with a particular policy without any of the costs. Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, "Warren’s plans to pay for government health care aren’t courageous. They’re a cop out.," 7 Nov. 2019 The far-reaching, proposed climate legislation championed by liberal lawmakers Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, and derided by Trump as economic flimflam, aims to tackle climate change. Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY, "2020 Democrats: Climate change comes off the backburner as White House hopefuls take on President Trump," 5 Sep. 2019 Voters’ civic duty lies in applying their best judgment to separate the fact from the flimflam. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "A ‘No Deal’ Brexit Can Save the European Union," 17 Jan. 2019 Once the flimflam is removed, stocks and bonds are telling a consistent story of a slower but still-growing economy. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "Stocks and Bonds Share a Story: Don’t Bet on a Boom," 30 Aug. 2018 Patients and taxpayers incur the financial costs of this flimflam, and patients suffer further by losing access to local health providers. WSJ, "CVS Exploits PBM Role, and Taxpayers Pay," 25 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'flimflam.' 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 flimflam


circa 1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1660, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for flimflam


perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse flim mockery

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about flimflam

Time Traveler for flimflam

Time Traveler

The first known use of flimflam was circa 1538

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about flimflam

Statistics for flimflam

Cite this Entry

“Flimflam.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flimflam. Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for flimflam


How to pronounce flimflam (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of flimflam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: dishonest behavior meant to take money or property from someone
: foolish or deceptive words



English Language Learners Definition of flimflam (Entry 2 of 2)

informal : to trick (someone) in order to steal money

More from Merriam-Webster on flimflam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for flimflam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with flimflam

Comments on flimflam

What made you want to look up flimflam? 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

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
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!