Word of the Day : June 8, 2012

shell game

play
noun SHEL-GAYM

Definition

1 : thimblerig played especially with three walnut shells

2 : fraud; especially : a swindle involving the substitution of something of little or no value for a valuable item

Did You Know?

The shell game, a swindling trick in which a small ball or pea is quickly shifted from under one to another of three walnut shells or cups to fool the spectator guessing its location, is a version of one of the oldest and most widespread forms of sleight of hand. Conjurers have performed this trick, which is also called "the cups and balls trick" and "thimblerig," throughout the world for centuries. The version that became popular in the United States in the late 19th century used walnut shells and peas. "Shell game" thus became the popular term for the trick, and the trick itself became so well known that the term is now used figuratively to describe dishonest actions that are done to deceive people.


Examples

The company has been accused of playing an elaborate shell game in which investors are the ultimate losers.

"Bill Abersold will perform magic with coins, cards, ropes and gimmicks and will demonstrate con tricks like the shell game and three-card monte." - From an event notice in The Press-Enterprise (California), May 22, 2012



Test Your Memory

What recent Word of the Day can mean "a place where animals are kept and trained especially for exhibition"? The answer is ...


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!