skul·​dug·​gery | \ ˌskəl-ˈdə-g(ə-)rē How to pronounce skulduggery (audio) , ˈskəl-ˌdə- \
variants: or skullduggery
plural skulduggeries

Definition of skulduggery

: underhanded or unscrupulous behavior also : a devious device or trick

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Did You Know?

Skulduggery, which can also be spelled "skullduggery," was first documented in the mid-19th century spelled as "scull-duggery." Etymologists aren't sure exactly how the word arrived in English, but they do not believe it has anything to do with skulls. It is possibly derived from the now-very-rare "sculduddery," a term once used to refer to gross or lewd conduct, but unfortunately the origins of that word are also unknown.

Examples of skulduggery in a Sentence

tales of espionage and skulduggery the company's apparently healthy bottom line was merely an illusion, the result of years of accounting skulduggery
Recent Examples on the Web The sticking-point was a problem that has long bedevilled the EU: how to tackle corruption and other skulduggery in countries that benefit from EU transfers. The Economist, "The EU gives itself a weapon to battle against rule-of-law violations," 16 Dec. 2020 Four years later, he was defeated by Thomas Jefferson in a fraught election that exposed deep internal rifts among Americans, racial anxieties and more than a little skulduggery. Ted Widmer, WSJ, "How John Adams Got Over Political Defeat," 4 Dec. 2020 On Tuesday, Amy Coney Barrett spent much of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing trying to rise above the stench of the self-serving politics and skulduggery that President Trump has injected into the process. Washington Post, "Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings," 13 Oct. 2020 But that bit of procedural mystery — and hints of skulduggery — aside, the bills encountered tough opposition, maybe even more so than in the past. Michael Smolens Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Failed housing legislation couldn’t overcome familiar obstacles," 4 Sep. 2020 No census is perfect, and many have been marred by incidents like fires in 1890 and 1980, lost records and even skulduggery. Michael Wines, New York Times, "As Census Count Resumes, Doubts About Accuracy Continue to Grow," 24 Aug. 2020 Less serious foreign skulduggery and even accusations with little or no evidence have ruined the careers of politicians, diplomats and government officials. Michael Smolens Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: ‘Collusion’ dispute is a distraction in Russia election probe," 23 Aug. 2020 Two more cameras will also be running by each player to capture any skulduggery. Victor Mather, New York Times, "World Chess Moves Online. But Check, Don’t Cheat, Mate.," 23 Apr. 2020 This is probably simply snooping, rather than rehearsal for skulduggery. The Economist, "Attacking satellites is increasingly attractive—and dangerous," 18 July 2019

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

1856, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for skulduggery

origin unknown

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The first known use of skulduggery was in 1856

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Last Updated

30 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Skulduggery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for skulduggery


How to pronounce skulduggery (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of skulduggery

old-fashioned : secret or dishonest behavior or activity

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