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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

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legerdemain

January 26th, 2015

Episode 88 of 720 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 26, 2015 is: legerdemain \lej-er-duh-MAYN\ noun 1 : sleight of hand 2 : a display of skill and adroitness Examples: The company's accountants used financial legerdemain to conceal its true revenues and avoided paying $2 million in taxes as a result. "U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is trying for a bit of late-session congressional magic to finally get some movement on proposals to increase federal timber harvests in western Oregon. The Oregon Democrat has pulled off some last-minute feats of legislative legerdemain in the past, so it's not at all out of the question that he can do it again." The Associated Press, November 17, 2014 Did you know? In Middle French, folks who were clever enough to fool others with fast-fingered illusions were described as leger de main, literally "light of hand." English speakers condensed that phrase into a noun when they borrowed it in the 15th century and began using it as an alternative to the older sleight of hand. (That term for dexterity or skill in using one's hands makes use of sleight, an old word from Middle English that derives from an Old Norse word meaning "sly.") In more modern times, a feat of legerdemain can even be accomplished without using your hands, as in, for example, "an impressive bit of financial legerdemain."

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