leg·​er·​de·​main | \ ˌle-jər-də-ˈmān How to pronounce legerdemain (audio) \

Definition of legerdemain

1 : sleight of hand displays legerdemain with cards and coins
2 : a display of skill or adroitness a remarkable piece of diplomatic legerdemain— Anthony West

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Did You Know?

In Middle French, folks who were clever enough to fool others with fast-fingered illusions were described as "leger de main," literally "light of hand." English speakers condensed that phrase into a noun when they borrowed it in the 15th century and began using it as an alternative to the older "sleight of hand." (That term for dexterity or skill in using one's hands makes use of "sleight," an old word from Middle English that derives from an Old Norse word meaning "sly.") In more modern times, a feat of legerdemain can even be accomplished without using your hands, as in, for example "an impressive bit of financial legerdemain."

Examples of legerdemain in a Sentence

the illusionist's show is an entertaining blend of legerdemain and over-the-top showmanship the reduction of the deficit is due in part to financial legerdemain that masks the true costs of running the government
Recent Examples on the Web Political reporters were dazzled by his legerdemain in stealing a traditionally Republican issue, promising more law enforcement on the streets and tougher penalties for juvenile offenders. NBC News, "Analysis: How the media created a 'superpredator' myth that harmed a generation of Black youth," 20 Nov. 2020 With a conjurer’s legerdemain, Swift slides Jack into the shadows and pushes Ronnie into the spotlight. Malcolm Forbes Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "REVIEW: 'Here We Are,' by Graham Swift," 18 Sep. 2020 Others used the moniker as a compliment, owing to his legerdemain. Bruce Nelan, Washington Post, "Felix Rohatyn, Wall Street wizard who helped save NYC from bankruptcy, dies at 91," 14 Dec. 2019 Again and unequivocally, no. MLB (rightly) would view such a restructuring as an effort to circumvent the luxury tax and would not permit such accounting legerdemain. BostonGlobe.com, "SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Plenty of decisions have brought the Red Sox to the point of uncomfortable contortions as they try to limbo under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for the 2020 season. Among them is a decision that was made by the team more than six years ago.," 13 Nov. 2019 The molecules that accomplish prime editing’s genetic legerdemain have three parts. Sharon Begley, STAT, "New CRISPR tool has the potential to correct almost all disease-causing DNA glitches, scientists report," 21 Oct. 2019 Yet in the meantime, the legal legerdemain led to immense suffering. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality’ Review: A Nation’s Arc Toward Justice," 29 June 2019 But even that bit of binary legerdemain involved a relative unknown and took seven days to pull off. Jack Mccallum, SI.com, "A Clippers Summer: How L.A.’s ‘Other’ Team Stole the NBA Offseason," 9 July 2019 There’s legerdemain aplenty in this designer’s work, as well as romance and an unapologetic femininity, which registers as strength to this designer. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "With Stitchless Garments Designer Katie Roberts-Wood Links Femininity to Strength," 20 Feb. 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for legerdemain

Middle English, from Middle French leger de main light of hand

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Time Traveler for legerdemain

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The first known use of legerdemain was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Legerdemain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legerdemain. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of legerdemain

: skill in using your hands to perform magic tricks

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