Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Sleight of hand.
  • n. A show of skill or deceitful cleverness: financial legerdemain.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Sleight of hand; "magic" trickery
  • n. A show of skill or deceitful ability

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Sleight of hand; a trick of sleight of hand; hence, any artful deception or trick.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Sleight of hand; a deceptive performance or trick which depends on dexterity of hand; fallacious adroitness, trickery, or deception generally.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an illusory feat; considered magical by naive observers

Etymologies

Middle English legerdemayn, from Old French leger de main : leger, light (from Vulgar Latin *leviārius, from Latin levis; see legwh- in Indo-European roots) + de, of (from Latin ; see de-) + main, hand; see mortmain.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Borrowing from French léger de main (literally "light (weight) of hand"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I need hardly add that these cards are specially treated against any kind of legerdemain, which is superfluous in any case since they will be machine-shuffled.

    The Grand Wheel

  • The story of Robert-Houdin’s diplomacy by legerdemain is well-established in magic lore, in large part because it is the only documented instance, at least since antiquity, in which a conjurer changed the course of world affairs.

    Stage magic isn’t statecraft « Isegoria

  • It's the levity that helps to keep us afloat, the magic that gives us lightness of touch -- what the French call legerdemain -- grace under pressure, wonder, and hope.

    Mark Matousek: Life Lessons from Peter Pan

  • Following the strict orders of their donor-masters, and under the guise of the neo-lingo legerdemain, our elected representatives reversed critical legislation that protected us from unfair manipulation of the free markets forces, such as Taft-Hartley Act and other anti-monopoly laws.

    Poli-Oligarchs

  • We find that the claim is based on dubious assumptions, cherry-picking data, and mathematical legerdemain which is inexplicably being withheld from the public.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » 2010 » March

  • When art shall be annexed to beauty, when wiles and guiles shall concur; for to speak as it is, love is a kind of legerdemain; mere juggling, a fascination.

    Anatomy of Melancholy

  • Stewart's question reveals both a gap in his education and a laudable ability to spot legerdemain which is a pretty good cement for such educational gaps.

    Archive 2005-05-08

  • "I don't see how you do it," my Uncle Frank said to me one day, and his tone implied that he considered my authorship a questionable kind of legerdemain, as if I were, somehow, getting money under false pretenses.

    A Daughter of the Middle Border

  • A plain man, who knew nothing of the curious transmutation which the wit of man can work, would be very apt to wonder by what kind of legerdemain Aaron

    The American Union Speaker

  • Kuiper Belt Object - sized "public servant" who, using the same kind of legerdemain federal bookkeepers employ in low-balling the budget deficit, lists his weight as 250 pounds -- was caught on video delivering a drunken beating to a 115-pound female bartender named Karolina Obrycka.

    Libertarian Blog Place

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