parlor trick


variants US parlor trick or British parlour trick
plural parlor tricks
: a usually simple trick or demonstration that is used especially to entertain or amuse guests
… this book … includes classic parlor tricks such as piercing a balloon with a needle without popping it, and yanking a tablecloth out from under bottles and plates.Dolly Setton
sometimes used figuratively
Their game is an illusion, a political parlor trick: Hold down funding for key priorities, such as K-12 education, or universities, and then when revenues create a surplus, call it an "overpayment" by taxpayers.Mike Owen
Methods of reporting change, and with the fierce competition of the Internet age, many reporters have resorted to ambush journalism or other parlor tricks.David Yas

Examples of parlor trick in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Balance, of course, is a journalistic parlor trick. Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 5 Apr. 2024 Earmarks are just a legislative parlor trick that allows individual members of Congress to mandate spending on specific projects, which often – but not always – benefit their cronies or some special interest. Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 15 Feb. 2024 The book thrums with a newfound pessimism; Ariely seems to have lost faith in his old parlor tricks. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2023 These experiments are more than just fancy parlor tricks. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 19 Sep. 2023 Fortunately, the value in zero-knowledge proofs extends well beyond parlor tricks and protecting paranoid mathematicians. Jack Murtagh, Scientific American, 1 July 2023 Unlike those bots, which are in some ways high-tech parlor tricks, CarynAI goes a step further by promising to create a real emotional bond with users, bringing to mind the 2013 movie Her and raising all sorts of ethical questions. Alexandra Sternlicht, Fortune, 9 May 2023 While so much attention is being paid to ChatGPT parlor tricks and Midjourey 5 versions of Donald Trump, the bigger story is about which company can offer developers the best AI tools—and the new software that developers will build with that AI by their side. WIRED, 30 Mar. 2023 And the parlor tricks aren't over yet! Kristen Baldwin,, 7 Mar. 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1855, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of parlor trick was in 1855

Dictionary Entries Near parlor trick

Cite this Entry

“Parlor trick.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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