: deceitful craftiness
also : stratagem

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it slight or sleight of hand?

Slight is a homophone of sleight, and feels like it makes sense in this idiom, but sleight of hand is the correct form when referring to a cleverly executed trick. Sleight means "deceitful craftiness" or "stratagem," and slight means "having a slim or delicate build"; a slim person is sometimes described as being "slight of build."

What is the difference between sleight and slight?

Slight is the far more common word. In modern use it can be a verb meaning "to offend or insult someone" (as in "slighted by a rude colleague"), or a noun closely related to that verb ("the colleague's remark could only be seen as a slight"), or it can be an adjective describing people and things that are slim, frail, small, or trivial ("a slight figure," "a slight chance," "a slight movie"). Sleight is a noun that can refer either to a deceitful kind of craftiness, or to skill and dexterity. It is typically found in the phrase "sleight of hand," or variations on that phrase (as in "sleight of pen").

Is the correct phrase sleight chance or slight chance?

Slight chance: slight in this case means "small." If rain is possible but not very likely on a given day, there's a slight chance of rain. If you buy only one of 500 raffle tickets sold, you have a slight chance of winning.

Examples of sleight in a Sentence

must have employed some sophisticated sleight to con that wary couple out of their money a brilliant new theory that pays tribute to his remarkable sleight of mind
Recent Examples on the Web Heading into a 12-game sleight tonight, with the two current favorites hitting the ice, here is where the odds for the award currently stand. Tyler Small, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2024 What then is too much, when a sleight of the rational names plenty as recursion in thickets, absent blaring data and the insects vanish. Alice Gribbin, The New York Review of Books, 2 Nov. 2023 But her sleight of foot no doubt made for a livelier flight back to San Diego. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Aug. 2023 Spending more time with these two main characters as people and not pieces in a shifting sleight-of-hand exercise might give the strong performances a chance to assert themselves more. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Apr. 2023 That's when the Wildcats caught fire from outside, thanks to Nowell's sleight-of-hand passing that kept MSU defenders guessing. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, 24 Mar. 2023 In Gustafson’s version of a play commonly called a fumblerooski, sleight-of-hand was only half the trick. Dallas News, 18 Aug. 2022 Whatever its relevance, that passage can stand as a fascinating exposé of a supposedly gifted medium as nothing more than a sleight-of-hand artist. Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post, 1 July 2022 Decade after decade, sleight-of-hand and broken promises were the best this National Historic Landmark and its surrounding neighbors got from folks who showed up claiming help had finally arrived. Dallas News, 7 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sleight.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old Norse slœgth, from slœgr sly — more at sly

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sleight was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near sleight

Cite this Entry

“Sleight.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: sly trickery

More from Merriam-Webster on sleight

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