trickier; trickiest
: inclined to or marked by trickery
: giving a deceptive impression of easiness, simplicity, or order : ticklish
a tricky path through the swamp
: requiring skill, knack, or caution (as in doing or handling) : difficult
a tricky problem
also : ingenious
a tricky rhythm
trickily adverb
trickiness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for tricky

sly, cunning, crafty, wily, tricky, foxy, artful, slick mean attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means.

sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.

a sly corporate raider

cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.

the cunning fox avoided the trap

crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.

a crafty lefthander

wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.

the wily fugitive escaped the posse

tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.

a tricky political operative

foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.

a foxy publicity man planting stories

artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.

elicited the information by artful questioning

slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.

slick operators selling time-sharing

Examples of tricky in a Sentence

The lock is tricky to open. a tricky musical passage for the woodwind section
Recent Examples on the Web Some groups of conservation biologists calling for more human-free spaces, Young said, but enforcement of such a policy could be tricky. Sofia Jeremias, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Sep. 2023 Choosing the best massage chair to meet your specific needs can be tricky, though, since there are so many different features available. Lauren Wellbank, Woman's Day, 8 Sep. 2023 Finding storage solutions can be tricky, especially in a living room where books, board games, blankets, and other miscellaneous items coexist. Clara McMahon, Peoplemag, 7 Sep. 2023 The goings-on are infused with desires and affections (though that more tender feeling is tricky) that don’t quite speak their name but are apparent to the audience like fresh gashes and festering wounds. Lisa Kennedy, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 Artificial insemination is tricky, however, and Paul Marinari, senior curator at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, thinks relying solely on this technique is a risk. Amy Mathews Amos, Scientific American, 4 Sep. 2023 Putting aside political rivalries after natural disasters can be tricky. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 3 Sep. 2023 But hiring a defensive-minded guy is tricky when the defense isn't good. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 3 Sep. 2023 Putting aside political rivalries following natural disasters can be tricky, meanwhile. Will Weissert, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tricky.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1786, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tricky was in 1786

Dictionary Entries Near tricky

Cite this Entry

“Tricky.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


trickier; trickiest
: likely to use or characterized by tricks or trickery
: requiring skill or caution : difficult
a tricky situation

More from Merriam-Webster on tricky

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