\ ˈgī(-ə)l How to pronounce guile (audio) \

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 How to pronounce guile (audio) \ adjective
guilefully \ ˈgī(-​ə)l-​fə-​lē How to pronounce guile (audio) \ 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 Justice was denied for nearly two decades—an entire generation of Black citizens—because of Russell’s legislative guile and inflated moral reputation. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The U.S. Senate’s Oldest Office Building Honors a Racist," 26 Apr. 2021 Haynes relied on rudimentary wrestling moves and lots of guile that first year. David Hinojosa, San Antonio Express-News, "Steele's Haynes emerges as one of state's top wrestlers," 21 Apr. 2021 Other players tend to run into battle completely blind with a sword and a shield, throwing hands with a skyscraper-size dragon using guile and guts alone. Luke Winkie, Vulture, "The Best Video Games of 2021 (So Far)," 9 Apr. 2021 Small and not blessed with elite athleticism, Garland uses guile and quickness to get into the paint, finishing at the rim with floaters or a soft touch off the glass. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "As Cavaliers learn more about Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, they see evidence from Jazz on how unconventional backcourt can thrive," 30 Mar. 2021 The community hospital in Bryan, under constant threat of having to sell to a larger hospital group, manages to stay solvent through a combination of guile, luck and scotch tape. John Warner,, "Opinion: Want to know what ails America? Read ‘Hospital’ by Brian Alexander," 29 Mar. 2021 The actress holds court over a starry cast including John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman, gleefully delivering tart one-liners and a now-iconic monologue about using her guile as both an armor and weapon against men. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Glenn Close's Oscar-nominated performances, ranked (including 'Hillbilly Elegy' and 'Fatal Attraction')," 25 Mar. 2021 In the meantime, the Bruins will try to get by on guile and a ball of twine. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, "Having made the best of a rocky regular season, UCLA wants more in March," 10 Mar. 2021 Even though MacKenly shoots right-handed and Zach is a lefty, comparisons to her father’s combination of strength, guile and a deft scoring touch inside are frequent. New York Times, "He Bonded With Kobe as a Competitor, Then as Another #GirlDad," 24 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for guile

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for guile

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Guile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce guile (audio) \

Kids Definition of guile

: the use of clever and often dishonest methods

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More from Merriam-Webster on guile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for guile

Nglish: Translation of guile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of guile for Arabic Speakers

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