noun strat·a·gem \ ˈstra-tə-jəm , -ˌjem \
|Updated on: 29 Jun 2018

Definition of stratagem

1 a : 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

stratagem was our Word of the Day on 12/02/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of stratagem in a Sentence

  1. tried various stratagems to get the cat into the carrier, but the feisty feline was wise to them all

Recent Examples of stratagem from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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

STRATAGEM Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of stratagem for English Language Learners

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

STRATAGEM Defined for Kids


noun strat·a·gem \ ˈstra-tə-jəm \

Definition of stratagem for Students

: a clever trick or plan

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excessive admiration or flattery

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