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Definitions

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

  • n. An artful or crafty expedient; a stratagem. See Synonyms at wile.
  • n. Subtle but base deception; trickery.
  • n. Cleverness or skill; ingenuity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A crafty but underhanded deception.
  • n. A trick played out as an ingenious, but artful, ruse.
  • n. A strategic maneuver that uses some clever means to avoid detection or capture.
  • n. A tactical move to gain advantage.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A handicraft; a trade; art of making.
  • n. Workmanship; a skillfully contrived work.
  • n. Artful or skillful contrivance.
  • n. Crafty device; an artful, ingenious, or elaborate trick. [Now the usual meaning.]

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. . The art of making.
  • n. An ingenious or skilfully contrived work.
  • n. Skill in designing and employing expedients; artful contrivance; address; trickery.
  • n. A crafty device; an ingenious expedient; trick; shift; piece of finesse.
  • n. Synonyms Artifice, Manæuver, Stratagem, Wile, Trick, Ruse, Finesse, device, contrivance, cunning, craft, deception, cheat, fraud, guile, imposition, dodge, subterfuge, double-dealing. These words generally imply a careful endeavor to compass an end by deceiving others, not necessarily, however, with evil intent. They all imply management and address. An artifice is prepared with art or care; it is craftily devised. Manæuver suggests something more elaborate or intricate, a carefully contrived movement or course of action for a definite purpose; it is the quiet or secret marshaling of one's intellectual or other resources to carry a point. Stratagem is, like manæuver, a figurative term drawn from war; it is upon a larger scale what wile is upon a smaller, a device to deceive one who is the object of an imagined warfare, so that we may catch him at a disadvantage and discomfit him, or, more generally, a carefully prepared plan to carry one's point with another—to capture it or him, so to speak. A wile may be peculiarly coaxing or insinuating. Trick is the lowest and most dishonorable of these words; it may be a low or underhand act, in violation of honor or propriety, for the purpose of cheating, or something as bad. A ruse is a deception of some elaborateness, intended to cover one's intentions, help one to escape from a predicament, etc.; it is a plausible way of bringing about what we desire to happen, without apparent interference on our part. Finesse is subtlety in action; it is a more delicate sort of artifice. See artful, evasion, and fraud.

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

  • n. a deceptive maneuver (especially to avoid capture)

Etymologies

French, from Old French, craftsmanship, from Latin artificium, from artifex, artific-, craftsman : ars, art-, art; see art1 + -fex, maker.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French artifice < Latin artificium. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But thinking through the poem's artifice is only one way into it, and on the poem's own terms it is not necessarily a better path than the one pointed to by the rhetorical question of the

    Captivation and Liberty in Wordsworth's Poems on Music

  • This declaration of artifice is to the point because it both invests in the power of representation and recognizes its limitations.

    Projection, Patriotism, Surrogation: Handel in Calcutta

  • Maybe so, but I think there's also a sense in which readers of fantastic fiction become attuned to these irrationalities, such that when realist writers do introduce them as purportedly naturalistic events, the artifice is obvious.

    Archive 2006-07-01

  • Spark, I think, would reply that the novelist can do nothing else, because she simply has this power over her characters; not to admit it, to hide that control in fathoms of agreeable artifice, is to act in bad faith.

    The Prime of Ms. Muriel Spark

  • We think of the fecundity in artifice with which those of better brain,. no matter how they were handicapped by law, would still outwit those of poorer brain, showing an intensified bitterness born of the class struggle in whose ruthlessness they had been bidden to believe.

    The Present Challenge to British Imperialism

  • This, my Lord, you are permitted to do; they have no means of resistance; but think not to impose on me by a sophistical assertion of right, or to gloss the villainy of your conduct with the colours of justice; the artifice is beneath the desperate force of your character, and is not sufficiently specious to deceive the discernment of virtue.

    The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne: A Highland Story

  • Last Sunday on This Week With David Brinkley, Cokie Roberts dismissed Clinton's conduct as an "artifice" -- an exercise in campaign strategy.

    Chicago Reader

  • They assumed that we must live by artifice, and they entitled artifice 'Science.'"

    Memoir and Letters of Francis W. Newman

  • And so he did, with sly artifice, which is worse in such hands than a crowbar.

    The Last Chronicle of Barset

  • The artifice was a new one, and showed that the fugitives were assisted by men with intellect far in advance of their own.

    Under Drake's Flag A Tale of the Spanish Main

Comments

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  • This makes me think of snorifice. *snort*

    October 24, 2009

  • "Artifice is that thing that was art in its conception and ifice in its execution. Look around. Examples are everywhere."

    --"Everything Is Illuminated" (Jonathan Safran Foer)

    August 3, 2009