shell game

noun

Definition of shell game

1 : thimblerig played especially with three walnut shells
2 : fraud especially : a swindle involving the substitution of something of little or no value for a valuable item

Synonyms for shell game

Synonyms

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The shell game, a swindling trick in which a small ball or pea is quickly shifted from under one to another of three walnut shells or cups to fool the spectator guessing its location, is a version of one of the oldest and most widespread forms of sleight of hand. Conjurers have performed this trick, which is also called the cups and balls trick and thimblerig, throughout the world for centuries. The version that became popular in the United States in the late 19th century used walnut shells and peas. Shell game thus became the popular term for the trick, and the trick itself became so well known that the term is now used figuratively to describe dishonest actions that are done to deceive people.

Examples of shell game in a Sentence

it's amazing how intelligent people fall for that investment-fund shell game
Recent Examples on the Web Even if Bergeron and Krejci are aboard, Montgomery will have his own shell game to manage with Marchand and McAvoy on the mend. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 21 July 2022 Since then Florida has waged a human vs. snail shell game. Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes, 2 July 2022 The academic research emphatically shows that this elaborate shell game can be a supremely costly job-creation strategy. Margaret O'mara, Wired, 13 Jan. 2022 Considering the substantial financial help that Tesla has long received from government support for its electric cars, the company doesn't have to use a shell game of offshoring its profits to avoid paying taxes. Chris Isidore, CNN, 10 Feb. 2022 The young athletes who have spent lifetimes dreaming of this moment are pawns in a huge financial shell game. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Feb. 2022 Blockchain is either the most radical invention of the century or a worthless shell game. Gideon Lichfield, Wired, 3 Jan. 2022 Without any penalties for failure for first-pass tender acceptance, carriers and shippers have played a shell game on price. Lora Cecere, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 Democrats played a definitional shell game with progressive racial narratives woven throughout education rather than directly addressing parental concerns about how complex issues of race are taught to children. Cameron Smith | Csmith@al.com, al, 4 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shell game.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of shell game

1890, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of shell game was in 1890

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Dictionary Entries Near shell game

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shell game

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Statistics for shell game

Last Updated

26 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shell game.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shell%20game. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on shell game

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about shell game

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