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  • Noun




Diana always got her way, even if she had to use subterfuge or underhanded trickery to get it. She appeared to be kind, but underneath her golden surface lurked the mastermind of a clever manipulator gifted in schemes, deception, and subterfuge. She would often use subterfuge or secret plots that were highly successful in getting others to do what she wanted.

Quiz: When is someone using subterfuge?

  • When they pretend to do one thing while actually doing another.
  • When they explain a complicated scientific process that makes it sound easy.
  • When they procrastinate often on school projects to their own detriment.

Memory Hook

Subplot? Huge Turf! My neighbor's subterfuge to annoy me was to employ a subplot of pretending to learn how to golf and sending huge clumps of turf sailing over my fence!


  • The right thing to do never requires any subterfuge; it is always simple and direct. — Calvin Coolidge, Thirtieth President of the United States Calvin coolidge, thirtieth president of the united states
  • Today’s titans of industry are laid low not by ruthless competitors but by prosecutors gleefully waving transcripts of old e-mail, filled with suggestions of subterfuge. —New York Times
  • Simply put, for all the theater and subterfuge involved in politics, all politicians are emotionally attached to certain issues, ideas and policies over others. —The Economist
  • Despotic regimes, rather than ruling through absolute violence, typically rely on a noxious mixture of propaganda, patronage, apathy, political legitimacy, and a calibrated use of public and covert violence to generate a blanket of fear. However, it turns out that fear and apathy can be brittle. Dissidents can hammer the first cracks in the edifice by creating low-risk ways for citizens to signal solidarity with one another and see through a regime's subterfuge. —The Atlantic

Word Ingredients

sub- under, from below
fug flee
e used for spelling and pronunciation

Subterfuge is a “fleeing under” another’s eyes and mind in order to trick or deceive him “from below.”

Word Constellation