thim·​ble·​rig | \ ˈthim-bəl-ˌrig How to pronounce thimblerig (audio) \

Definition of thimblerig

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a swindling trick in which a small ball or pea is quickly shifted from under one to another of three small cups to fool the spectator guessing its location
2 : one who manipulates the cup in thimblerig : thimblerigger


thimblerigged; thimblerigging

Definition of thimblerig (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to cheat by trickery
2 : to swindle by thimblerig

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Other Words from thimblerig


thimblerigger noun

Did You Know?


The game of thimblerig seems innocent enough. The thimblerigger places a seed under one of three thimbles. He or she deftly scoots the thimbles around on a table, then asks the player to bet on which one hides the seed. But thimbleriggers are masters of sleight of hand and can move and manipulate the seed unfairly - so the guileless player doesn't stand a chance of winning. (The poor bettor is probably unaware that "rig" has meant "to manipulate or control usually by deceptive or dishonest means" since the 1800s.) When the same sham is played with nutshells, it's called a "shell game," and there's a related game played with cards known as "three-card monte."

Examples of thimblerig in a Sentence

Verb had the feeling that I had just been thimblerigged by the sweetest-looking old lady

First Known Use of thimblerig


1826, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1839, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of thimblerig was in 1826

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Cite this Entry

“Thimblerig.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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