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 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 At the same time, the Patriots were often chastised for skirting at the edges of league rules: fined for illegally videotaping an opponent, suspected of falsifying injury reports and accused of skulduggery while substituting players during games. Bill Pennington, New York Times, "Tom Brady Lifted the Patriots. Now Comes a Second Act.," 17 Mar. 2020 Fleeing both from villains and law enforcement, who suspect him in a murder, Hannay survives skulduggery in a vaudeville theater, a chase atop a speeding train and other cloak-and-dagger stuff. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "Constellation’s ‘39 Steps’ is a comic thriller without thrills," 18 Feb. 2020 And there’s something amusing about how this Astros skulduggery can be traced to the growth of instant replay, an insidious development that is ruining game flow in every single sport. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Bang! Bang! You’re Suspended! Trashy Scandal Has Baseball Over a Barrel," 15 Jan. 2020 Tokyo's skulduggery may be the plot line of this real-life thriller's next episode. Fortune, "Carlos Ghosn Is Now a Fugitive In Exile. Here Are His Legal Options, According to Experts," 10 Jan. 2020 Because audits rely on sampling, some skulduggery will inevitably slip through. The Economist, "Reforming the Big Four," 24 May 2018 This election has been marinated in mendacity: big lies and small lies; quarter truths and pseudo-facts; distortion, dissembling and disinformation; and digital skulduggery on an industrial scale. The Economist, "Bagehot Truth has been the first casualty of Britain’s election," 5 Dec. 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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Cite this Entry

“Skulduggery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

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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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