sub·ter·fuge | \ˈsəb-tər-ˌfyüj \

Definition of subterfuge 

1 : deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade

2 : a deceptive device or stratagem

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Choose the Right Synonym for subterfuge

deception, fraud, double-dealing, subterfuge, trickery mean the acts or practices of one who deliberately deceives. deception may or may not imply blameworthiness, since it may suggest cheating or merely tactical resource. magicians are masters of deception fraud always implies guilt and often criminality in act or practice. indicted for fraud double-dealing suggests treachery or at least action contrary to a professed attitude. a go-between suspected of double-dealing subterfuge suggests the adoption of a stratagem or the telling of a lie in order to escape guilt or to gain an end. obtained the papers by subterfuge trickery implies ingenious acts intended to dupe or cheat. resorted to trickery to gain their ends

Subterfuge Has Latin Roots

Though "subterfuge" is a synonym of "deception," "fraud," "double-dealing," and "trickery," there’s nothing tricky about the word’s etymology. We borrowed the word and meaning from Late Latin subterfugium. That word contains the Latin prefix subter-, meaning "secretly," which derives from the adverb subter, meaning "underneath." The "-fuge" portion comes from the Latin verb fugere, which means "to flee" and which is also the source of words such as "fugitive" and "refuge," among others.

Examples of subterfuge in a Sentence

And the same kind of subterfuge that causes employees to open a virus-laden attachment could also lead them to unknowingly install programs that ship all their data to unscrupulous competitors. — Paul Wallich, Scientific American, July 2000 Williams has worn a wedding ring for the past decade. Originally it was a fake diamond used as a subterfuge during her days as an activist in Central America … — Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, February 1998 The first pool appeared on the scene in 1791, organized to manipulate stock of the U.S. Bank. Members of a pool contributed money, which was handed over to a single operator, who put into effect various strategies and subterfuges. He could depress the price of a stock, buy a lot at the low point, then artificially raise the price, and sell at a profit; or he might sell short, then depress the price and make a profit. — Kathleen Odean, High Steppers, Fallen Angels, and Lollipops, 1988 They obtained the documents by subterfuge. propagandists who use a kind of photographic subterfuge, superimposing one image on another to create a false “reality”
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Recent Examples on the Web

The essay pointed out the avenues blogs offered for subterfuge, for masking pain, but ultimately Matchar parsed the perusal of these blogs as a pleasure — and not even a very guilty one. Lydia Kiesling, The Cut, "The Evolution of a Mormon Mommy Blogger," 27 June 2018 To hear President Trump tell it, the Russia investigation could easily be mistaken for the latter — a hotbed of political subterfuge, complete with spies, sabotage, a deep state and corrupt prosecutors. Meg Kelly, Washington Post, "Video: The ‘scandals’ and progress of the Russia probe," 26 May 2018 Meanwhile, the heightened U.S. scrutiny, tied originally to fears the Chinese government could use Huawei for cyber-subterfuge, has unsettled some allied countries where the company has big business. Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, "Huawei Under Criminal Investigation Over Iran Sanctions," 25 Apr. 2018 Rodgers' vision — pop played with the rigor and precision of jazz, using commercial appeal as subterfuge for big ideas — has waxed and waned in pop culture over the decades. August Brown,, "Nile Rodgers' influence stretches all over Coachella, beaming the sound of a better future," 6 Apr. 2018 Volkswagen has been hit hardest in part because of the sheer scale of the subterfuge, but also because VW officials engaged in a coverup that lasted nearly two years after the company fell under the suspicion of U.S. regulators. William Boston, WSJ, "Volkswagen Fined $1.17 Billion in Germany in Emissions-Cheating Scandal," 13 June 2018 Bell’s response was to express outrage at the B.I.J.’s subterfuge. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, "The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation," 25 May 2018 Nuclear subterfuge has eroded public trust, debate, and decision making alike. Fred Pearce, Time, "How the 'Compulsive Secrecy’ of the Atomic Age Has Changed the Way We Think," 22 May 2018 That sort of federal subterfuge is par for the course. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "How the US Government Secretly Sold 'Spy Phones' to Suspects," 13 July 2018

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

1573, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subterfuge

Late Latin subterfugium, from Latin subterfugere to escape, evade, from subter- secretly (from subter underneath; akin to Latin sub under) + fugere to flee — more at up, fugitive

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Last Updated

5 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for subterfuge

The first known use of subterfuge was in 1573

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English Language Learners Definition of subterfuge

: the use of tricks especially to hide, avoid, or get something

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Comments on subterfuge

What made you want to look up subterfuge? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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