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flim·​flam ˈflim-ˌflam How to pronounce flimflam (audio)
: deceptive nonsense


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flimflammed; flimflamming

transitive verb

: to subject to a flimflam
flimflammer noun
flimflammery 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
Recent Examples on the Web
This is the language of partisan flimflam, not sober healthcare policymaking. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 2022 Hopefully, few readers will be taken in by this flimflam. Charles Selle, Chicago Tribune, 19 Sep. 2022 There are no extra fillers, no gimmicks, and no flimflam. The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Aug. 2022 Instead, Democrats should present voters with a material choice between a party that has nothing to offer the majority of Americans but abuse and conspiratorial flimflam and a party committed to building a democracy and an economy that work for all. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, 5 Feb. 2021 Might that statement actually be a bit of protective flimflam? Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 26 Feb. 2020 There’s always seemed to be a bit of flimflam behind that gigglemug of his. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 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, 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, 7 Nov. 2019
But liars like Kari Lake, who lost a bid for Arizona governor by parroting former President Trump’s falsehoods and hopes now to flimflam her way to a Senate seat, are only the most visible threat to our system of democracy. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History



perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse flim mockery

First Known Use


circa 1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1660, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of flimflam was circa 1538


Dictionary Entries Near flimflam

Cite this Entry

“Flimflam.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flimflam. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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