sub·​ter·​fuge | \ ˈsəb-tər-ˌfyüj How to pronounce subterfuge (audio) \

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

Here the Berliners’ playing was of such beauty and passion and perfection that Tchaikovsky had no place for subterfuge. Los Angeles Times, "Review: A shy Siberian conductor in Berlin may be just what the music world needs," 28 Aug. 2019 For one thing, Mr Modi enacted the change through repression and subterfuge. The Economist, "Modi’s revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy," 9 Aug. 2019 Black Cube has grown to roughly 120 employees and catapulted into the public eye through scandals involving fake identities and subterfuge. Jacquie Mcnish, WSJ, "Black Cube: The Bumbling Spies of the ‘Private Mossad’," 18 June 2019 The film prepares its viewers to expect conflict between Americanized Bili, who thinks the diagnosis should be public knowledge, and her family, who see their subterfuge as a filial duty. Zoë Hu, The New Republic, "Crazy Sad Asians," 27 Aug. 2019 Nevertheless, Apple’s incalculable debt to the U.S. government has not deterred it from employing virtually every subterfuge at its disposal to duck applicable tax levies. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "The Green New Deal: A Capitalist Plot (Part 2)," 15 Aug. 2019 Such an undertaking would echo similar naval missions that guarded ships from Tehran’s and Baghdad’s subterfuge during the 1980-1988 Iran–Iraq War. Deroy Murdock, National Review, "Trump Should Assemble a Multinational Naval Convoy," 28 June 2019 The meaning behind her dad’s subterfuge — that all men will deceive you at some point — has infected Madeline’s understanding of love and relationships. Ariana Romero,, "This Big Little Lies Revelation Explains The Secret Behind Madeline's Failed Marriages," 25 June 2019 However, while such luminaries as Kant and Goethe were never themselves caught red-handed in a massive whopper, their two most influential works hinged directly on the role of subterfuge in an enlightened society. Rebecca Schuman, Longreads, "On Truth and Lying in the Extra German Sense," 20 June 2019

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

21 Sep 2019

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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

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

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Spanish Central: Translation of subterfuge

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to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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