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

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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

Herzog & de Meuron buildings often seem to deploy a similar stratagem. Ian Volner, WSJ, "Swiss Architecture Firm Herzog & De Meuron Celebrates 40 Years," 4 Nov. 2018 Thankfully, that unimaginative stratagem has largely come and gone, and its next iteration has appeared in Seoul, where the city’s Fall 2019 Fashion Week wrapped up on Sunday. Vogue, "Off-Beat Twins Get the Win at Seoul Fashion Week," 25 Mar. 2019 The switch, after 2010, to defer a big chunk of Mr. Ghosn’s pay was obviously a stratagem to keep him in harness while easing the pressure on French and Japanese politicians. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Carlos Ghosn, a Victim of Old Japan," 21 Dec. 2018 When his stratagems work, or simply seem to work, he’s heralded as a genius. Ezra Klein, Vox, "Republicans are paying the Trump tax," 7 Nov. 2018 Reaction to us as cheapskates: Our skinflint stratagems provoked no untoward response. Fox, Town & Country, "A Table for Mr. Fox," 21 Nov. 2012 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

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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1 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for stratagem

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

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English Language Learners Definition of stratagem

formal : 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

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Spanish Central: Translation of stratagem

Nglish: Translation of stratagem for Spanish Speakers

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