Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 15, 2020 is:

artifice • AHR-tuh-fus  • noun

1 a : clever or artful skill : ingenuity 

b : an ingenious device or expedient

2 a : an artful stratagem : trick 

b : false or insincere behavior


“A generation that’s grown up with Snapchat-filtered selfies and pop feminism seems to have an innate understanding that artifice doesn’t negate authenticity, or that a penchant for towering wigs and acrylic nails doesn’t prevent someone from being a songwriting genius.” — Lindsay Zoladz, The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2019

“It could all be rather enervating, but the sheer polish and panache of the cast’s fluttering antics brings a smile to the lips—and Wilson introduced a soupçon of reality to offset the artifice. Having pretended to have a boyfriend, wealthy heiress Polly Browne … affects to be a humble secretary after she’s instantly smitten with errant rich-kid Tony, who’s slumming it as an errand boy.” — Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph (London), 3 Dec. 2019

Did you know?

Do great actors display artifice or art? Sometimes a bit of both. Artifice stresses creative skill or intelligence, but it also implies a sense of falseness and trickery. Art generally rises above such falseness, suggesting instead an unanalyzable creative force. Actors may rely on some of each, but the personae they display in their roles are usually artificial creations. Therein lies a lexical connection between art and artifice. Artifice derives from artificium, Latin for “artifice.” That root also gave English artificial. Artificium, in turn, developed from ars, the Latin root underlying the word art (and related terms such as artist and artisan).

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