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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Syracuse, to name several recent examples, have run their own bold experiments in curricular flimflam. Jay M. Smith, WSJ, "How Sports Ate Academic Freedom," 30 Apr. 2018 But a lot of his showmanship is pure flimflam, meant to dazzle his audience. Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, "Disappearing Acts: A Shelf of Missing-Person Mysteries," 2 Mar. 2018 The 1988 flimflam classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which Michael Caine’s gentleman con artist separates American tourists from their riches, was filmed in one of its inlets, Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Liam Vaughan, Bloomberg.com, "He Stole $100 Million From His Clients. Now He’s Living in Luxury on the Côte d’Azur," 18 Dec. 2017 The easy, if negative, response is that Unbuilt Detroit represents the flimflam of real estate development, where billion-dollar visions have little or nothing behind them but pretty pictures. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "Soccer stadium vision falls into Unbuilt Detroit archive but don't mourn the loss," 3 Nov. 2017

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for flimflam

The first known use of flimflam was circa 1538

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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).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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