strat·​a·​gem | \ ˈstra-tə-jəm How to pronounce stratagem (audio) , -ˌjem \

Definition of stratagem

1a : an artifice or trick in war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy
b : a cleverly contrived trick or scheme for gaining an end
2 : skill in ruses or trickery

Choose the Right Synonym for stratagem

trick, ruse, stratagem, maneuver, artifice, wile, feint mean an indirect means to gain an end. trick may imply deception, roguishness, illusion, and either an evil or harmless end. the tricks of the trade ruse stresses an attempt to mislead by a false impression. the ruses of smugglers stratagem implies a ruse used to entrap, outwit, circumvent, or surprise an opponent or enemy. the stratagem-filled game maneuver suggests adroit and skillful avoidance of difficulty. last-minute maneuvers to avert bankruptcy artifice implies ingenious contrivance or invention. the clever artifices of the stage wile suggests an attempt to entrap or deceive with false allurements. used all of his wiles to ingratiate himself feint implies a diversion or distraction of attention away from one's real intent. a feint toward the enemy's left flank

Did you know?

A stratagem is any clever scheme—sometimes one that's part of an overall strategy (i.e., a carefully worked out plan of action). The word stratagem entered English in the 15th century and was originally used in reference to some artifice, such as a military plan or maneuver, which was designed to deceive or outwit the enemy. This military sense can be traced back to the word's Greek ancestor stratēgēma, which is itself based on stratēgein, meaning "to act as a general." Stratēgein, in turn, comes from stratēgos (meaning "general"), which comes from stratos ("camp" or "army") and agein ("to lead"). Stratēgos is an ancestor of strategy as well.

Examples of stratagem in a Sentence

tried various stratagems to get the cat into the carrier, but the feisty feline was wise to them all
Recent Examples on the Web The first stratagem of the racist is to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. John Archibald |, al, 16 Jan. 2022 Written by co–executive producer Coleman Herbert, this episode employs the tricky but effective stratagem of walking backward through one of the show’s major revelations: How did Roxanne pull off such a huge grift? Devon Maloney, Vulture, 18 Oct. 2021 But her refusal to communicate don’t offer these theoretical voters any argument to consider or guidestar to follow, which diminishes the effectiveness of this stratagem. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 6 Oct. 2021 Armed with the insight, Jill tries and fails to rouse him from his slumbers (a sly and symbolic stratagem, involving the family dog). Richard Brod, The New Yorker, 10 Sep. 2021 These laws require unions to represent all employees in a unionized workplace without requiring them to pay union dues, a cynical stratagem aimed at depriving unions of financial resources. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2021 As long as this stratagem goes uncorrected, our nation’s investment in its Air Force will continue to be misunderstood. Dave Deptula, Forbes, 6 July 2021 Far from an energy system, Nordstream 2 is an economic stratagem designed by Putin to weaken, subvert, and split the countries of Eastern Europe from their Western neighbors. Tim Morrison, National Review, 14 June 2021 Such laws are a cynical stratagem aimed at depriving unions of resources. Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for stratagem

Italian stratagemma, from Latin strategema, from Greek stratēgēma, from stratēgein to be a general, maneuver, from stratēgos general, from stratos camp, army (akin to Latin stratus, past participle, spread out) + agein to lead — more at stratum, agent

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The first known use of stratagem was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stratagem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for stratagem



English Language Learners Definition of stratagem

: a trick or plan for deceiving an enemy or for achieving a goal


strat·​a·​gem | \ ˈstra-tə-jəm How to pronounce stratagem (audio) \

Kids Definition of stratagem

: a clever trick or plan

More from Merriam-Webster on stratagem

Nglish: Translation of stratagem for Spanish Speakers


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