stratagem

noun
strat·​a·​gem | \ˈstra-tə-jəm, -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

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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). Clearly, we no longer limit ourselves to the original military sense of "stratagem" as 15th-century users of the term did. The military meaning can be traced back to the word's Greek ancestor strategema, which is itself based on strategein, meaning "to act as a general." "Strategein" in turn comes from "strategos" ("general"), which comes from "stratos" ("army") and "agein" ("to lead"). "Strategos" 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

While my stratagems were deliberate, the motivation behind them had been unconscious. Longreads, "The Cold War and its Fallout," 16 June 2018 Image Decades after the Cleveland Indians used a defensive shift against the slugger Ted Williams, Major League Baseball is inching closer to legislating against that stratagem. David Waldstein, New York Times, "Rob Manfred Addresses the Shift, Gambling and That Viral Terry Collins Video," 14 June 2018 With neither target nor stratagem, a mysterious Oxygen-hating organism now rose slowly from the crushing depths. Karin Altenberg, WSJ, "‘Evolutions’ Review: How the Butterfly Got Its Spots," 8 June 2018 Anger in the boardroom In a filing last week, Sorkin’s lawyer, William Harvey, complained bitterly about the board stratagem that Garces used to get into bankruptcy court. Michael Klein, Philly.com, "Chef Jose Garces faces a crucial court date," 18 May 2018 The war, which dragged on longer than many viewers liked, turned on a surprising, satisfying plot twist that saw Rick's band go from seeming defeat to victory, even if the stratagem didn't stand up to close analysis. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "'The Walking Dead' recap: 'All-Out War' ends with Rick-Negan showdown," 15 Apr. 2018 As Jonathan Martin reported recently in The New York Times, Republicans are twisting the Democratic impeachment talk into a stratagem for raising money and mobilizing the base for the November races. Elizabeth Drew, The New Republic, "The End of Impeachment," 10 Apr. 2018 The zombie blood stratagem was not employed, keeping the series logical for at least another week. Steve Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Future shock: Sunday's 'Walking Dead' finally hints at a bigger purpose," 19 Mar. 2018 Other drug companies are trying similar REMS stratagems. Cynthia Koons, Bloomberg.com, "The Loopholes Drug Companies Use to Keep Prices High," 20 Dec. 2017

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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Time Traveler for stratagem

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

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More Definitions for stratagem

stratagem

noun

English Language Learners Definition of stratagem

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

stratagem

noun
strat·​a·​gem | \ˈstra-tə-jəm \

Kids Definition of stratagem

: a clever trick or plan

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