Word of the day – legerdemain

Word of the Day : July 6, 2020


noun lej-er-duh-MAYN


1 : sleight of hand

2 : a display of skill and adroitness

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 modern times, a feat of legerdemain can even be accomplished without using your hands, as in, for example, “an impressive bit of financial legerdemain.”


“An example of Mr. Northam’s political legerdemain is his tax proposal, which avoided the minefields of income or sales tax increases. Instead, he suggested hiking the gas tax while scrapping mandatory annual vehicle inspections and halving vehicle registration fees.” — The Washington Post, editorial, 20 Dec. 2019

“One must find the resonance between ancient and contemporary, blending incongruous elements in a way that seems not only right but inevitable: telling the story of a founding father with hip-hop lyrics, as in ‘Hamilton,’ or presenting the myth of Theseus in the milieu of reality television as in ‘The Hunger Games.’ Kekla Magoon manages a similar feat of legerdemain in ‘Shadows of Sherwood,’ her compelling reboot of the Robin Hood myth.” — Rick Riordan, The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2015