\ˈgī(-ə)l \

Definition of guile 

1 : deceitful cunning : duplicity a war that called for guile rather than firepower

2 obsolete : stratagem, trick

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Other Words from guile

guileful \ˈgī(-​ə)l-​fəl \ adjective
guilefully \ˈgī(-​ə)l-​fə-​lē \ adverb
guilefulness noun

Examples of guile in a Sentence

By the end of Liebling's dispatch, Mollie has become a mythic figure invulnerable to death, capable of great feats of courage and guile, and able to transform himself into any human type for the purposes of disguise. — Lee Siegel, Harper's, December 2004 The going was painfully slow, but Chickenhound consoled himself on the long journey by boosting his own ego. "Maybe a silly bunch of rats could put one over on Sela. Huh, she was old and had lost a lot of her guile. Not like me! They hadn't reckoned with a smart intelligent young fox like I am." — Brian Jacques, Redwall, (1986) 2002 Untrained human nature was not frank and innocent; it was full of the twists and defences of an instinctive guile. — Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, 1920 a shady salesman who usually relies on a combination of quick thinking and guile a person so full of guile he can't even be trusted to give you the correct time of day
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Recent Examples on the Web

On the other is Cambodia's Hun Sen, who has ruled his nation with a combination of political guile and brute force for three decades, and comes to New York having won all the seats in an election after outlawing his main political opposition. Matthew Pennington, Fox News, "Malaysia, Cambodia offer 2 Asian narratives of change at UN," 27 Sep. 2018 Mats Hummels, Germany Don’t let that big, strong physique fool you, Hummels has plenty of style and guile to go with his strength. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "World Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo tops list of top 50 players to look out for in Russia," 16 May 2018 That meeting of the party’s Central Committee was the culmination of months of secretive discussions that are only now coming to light — and show how Mr. Xi maneuvered with stealth, swiftness and guile to rewrite China’s Constitution. Chris Buckley, New York Times, "How Xi Jinping Made His Power Grab: With Stealth, Speed and Guile," 7 Mar. 2018 Croatia ultimately, had more raw skill and also more guile. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Why England's World Cup pain hurts so much," 11 July 2018 And then Salah danced past Sergio Ramos, a player whose grace and guile encapsulate his team. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Real Madrid Beats Liverpool in Champions League Final on a Wonder and Two Blunders," 27 May 2018 Yes, but don’t cry.’’ In Churchill’s bleak and unsparing vision, life is a relentless battle, requiring stoicism, and a jigsaw puzzle, requiring guile. Don Aucoin,, "A top-notch ‘Top Girls’ at the Huntington," 26 Apr. 2018 The former's rock hard physicality coupled with the latter's defensive guile and brains led them to five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy with Manchester United., "6 Player Partnerships That Wouldn't Have Succeeded Without One Another," 10 June 2018 Instead of using guile to reclaim their homes, some species are wising up to the idea of avoiding us altogether. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "How Humans Created the Ultimate Superpests," 9 July 2018

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for guile

Middle English gile, from Anglo-French, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old English wigle divination — more at witch

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Statistics for guile

Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for guile

The first known use of guile was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for guile



English Language Learners Definition of guile

: the use of clever and usually dishonest methods to achieve something


\ˈgīl \

Kids Definition of guile

: the use of clever and often dishonest methods

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More from Merriam-Webster on guile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with guile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for guile

Spanish Central: Translation of guile

Nglish: Translation of guile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of guile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on guile

What made you want to look up guile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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