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 For Democrats, Taylor is the face of selfless public service, someone whose background and demeanor make a charge of partisan skulduggery hard to stick., "‘‘I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything,’’ Taylor said under questioning by Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, that implied Taylor was doing Democrats’ bidding.," 14 Nov. 2019 In place of authenticity, the film’s déjà vu gangsterism amounts to a crime nerd’s fantasy — minus the horror that DePalma brought to the Hoffa legend in Snake Eyes, which reflected contemporary political skulduggery. Armond White, National Review, "The Irishman’s Déjà Vu Gangsterism," 1 Nov. 2019 The election commission introduced new electronic-voting machines that are supposed to reduce the risk of skulduggery. The Economist, "The perils ahead after Afghanistan’s presidential election," 27 Sep. 2019 Such skulduggery has even crept into supposedly democratic parts of Europe. The Economist, "The global gag on free speech is tightening," 15 Aug. 2019 Ahead of this year’s event, on August 25th, organisers are hoping for scurrying without skulduggery. The Economist, "Why the Mexico City marathon attracts so many cheats," 22 Aug. 2019 At the very least, this skulduggery offers a contrast to the efforts which preceded it. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Trump’s Quiet Attack on Redistricting," 19 Aug. 2019 That early broom-fight fantasy displays the energy and resourcefulness that will help Jane (Anne Flowers, channeling bland pluckiness) triumph over high-seas dangers and Jolly Roger skulduggery. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "Jane Hawkins takes center stage in Synetic’s reimagined ‘Treasure Island’," 24 July 2019 While some federal agencies knew of the skulduggery, little was done about it, largely because the Nixon and Ford administrations were concerned with strategic ties to South Korea, an ally of the United States. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Donald M. Fraser, Lawmaker Who Bared a South Korea Plot, Dies at 95," 3 June 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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Statistics for skulduggery

Last Updated

19 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for skulduggery

The first known use of skulduggery was in 1856

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How to pronounce skulduggery (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of skulduggery

old-fashioned : secret or dishonest behavior or activity

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What made you want to look up skulduggery? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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