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.
August 1st, 2015
Episode 274 of 848 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 01, 2015 is: skulduggery \skull-DUG-uh-ree\ noun : underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; also : a devious device or trick Examples: There was a whiff of skulduggery surrounding the real-estate deal, since the building managed to pass inspection even though everyone knew it wasn't up to code. "Some House Democrats cast a poor light on the idea of continued backroom negotiations. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the No. 4 Democratic leader, said the move to extend a possible revote until as late as July 30 was 'shady stuff' and 'underhanded' and held the potential for procedural skulduggery." Paul Kane and Mike DiBonis, Washington Post, June 16, 2015 Did you know? Skulduggery, which can also be spelled skullduggery, was first documented in the mid-19th century with the spelling scull-duggery. Etymologists aren't sure exactly how the word arrived in English, but despite the macabre imagery conjured by the word's parts, they do not believe it had anything to do with skulls. It is possibly derived from the now-very-rare sculduddery, a term once used to refer to gross or lewd conduct, but unfortunately the origins of that word are also unknown.