chi·​ca·​nery | \ shi-ˈkān-rē How to pronounce chicanery (audio) , -ˈkā-nə-, chi- \
plural chicaneries

Definition of chicanery

1 : deception by artful subterfuge or sophistry : trickery He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes.
2 : a piece of sharp practice (as at law) : trick resorted to political chicaneries financial chicaneries

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Chicanery Has Roots in French

We have hardly any words that do so fully expresse the French clinquant, naiveté … chicaneries. So lamented English writer John Evelyn in a letter to Sir Peter Wyche in 1665. Evelyn and Wyche were members of a group called the Royal Society, which had formed a committee emulating the French Academy for the purpose of "improving the English language." We can surmise that, in Evelyn's estimation, the addition of chicanery to English from French was an improvement. What he apparently didn't realize was that English speakers had adopted the word from the French chicanerie before he wished for it; the term appears in English manuscripts dating from 1609. Similarly, clinquant ("glittering with gold or tinsel") dates from 1591. Naïveté, on the other hand, waited until 1673 to appear.

Examples of chicanery in a Sentence

He wasn't above using chicanery to win votes. that candidate only won the election through chicanery
Recent Examples on the Web Against the unbeaten Rebels, with all the weapons Kiffin has in his toolbox, including a legit Heisman stud in quarterback Matt Corral, Alabama will have plenty of Kiffin chicanery to deal with. Charles Hollis, al, 1 Oct. 2021 Chastain shows you that Tammy Faye was a dupe, in too deep not to be part of the chicanery, but also a kind of innocent. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 12 Sep. 2021 Otis and Maeve spent much of Season Two estranged and shying away from the clinic, and the emphasis was more on a series of misunderstandings, poor timing, and outright chicanery that kept preventing the two from hooking up with each other. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 15 Sep. 2021 These tactics involved information available to all players, so they were considered legal, relying more on perceptiveness than chicanery. Kevin Pang, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2021 Some critics say that discourages people from reporting the most egregious frauds—Ponzi schemes and companies with major accounting chicanery—which often collapse or end up in bankruptcy court. Mark Maremont, WSJ, 27 June 2021 My favorite season would probably still have to be Heroes vs. Villains because of all the incredible chicanery and mind tricks. Dalton Ross,, 29 Apr. 2021 Trying to turn this into Astros chicanery is insane. Nick Canepa Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 May 2021 That did not stop Powell and a cadre of lawyers across the country from outlining alleged chicanery carried out by an intricate, international web of bad actors tied to dead dictators and others. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, 7 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chicanery.' 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 chicanery

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chicanery

borrowed from French chicanerie "quibbling on minor points of law brought up to complicate a judicial case," going back to Middle French chiquanerie, from chicaner "to dispute by means of quibbles," earlier "to sue, prosecute" + -erie -ery — more at chicane entry 1

Note: Randle Cotgrave's French-English dictionary (1611) defines chicanerie as "wrangling, pettifogging; litigious, or craftie pleading; the perplexing of a cause with trickes; or the pestering thereof with (subtile, but) impertinent words."

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The first known use of chicanery was in 1589

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Last Updated

8 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Chicanery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for chicanery



English Language Learners Definition of chicanery

: actions or statements that trick people into believing something that is not true : deception or trickery

More from Merriam-Webster on chicanery

Nglish: Translation of chicanery for Spanish Speakers


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