noun sub·ter·fuge \ ˈsəb-tər-ˌfyüj \
|Updated on: 13 Jul 2018

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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Examples of subterfuge in a Sentence

  1. 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 WallichScientific AmericanJuly 2000
  2. 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 LeibovitzVogueFebruary 1998
  3. 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 OdeanHigh Steppers, Fallen Angels, and Lollipops1988
  4. They obtained the documents by subterfuge.

  5. propagandists who use a kind of photographic subterfuge, superimposing one image on another to create a false “reality”

Recent Examples of subterfuge from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of subterfuge for English Language Learners

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

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