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

Definition of skulduggery

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

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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 Polish urban explorers who sneaked into the property found Russian newspapers from as late as 2005, long after the Russians had supposedly left, reinforcing the compound’s reputation as a haven for undercover skulduggery. New York Times, 4 May 2022 These two mechanisms, the Treasure Act and the PAS, haven’t worked flawlessly—skulduggery persists. Joshua Levine, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Mar. 2022 What is there in Le Prince’s story, aside from Edison’s supposed skulduggery, to warrant book-length treatment? Nat Segnit, Harper’s Magazine , 16 Mar. 2022 That’s when a move to lower the endorsement voting threshold — apparently to benefit former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer — was rejected amid divisions within the party and accusations of skulduggery. San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Aug. 2021 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, 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, 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, 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, 4 Sep. 2020 See More

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.

First Known Use of skulduggery

1845, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for skulduggery

origin unknown

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The first known use of skulduggery was in 1845

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Cite this Entry

“Skulduggery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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