• artifice •
ah(r)-tê-fis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An ingenious stratagem, device, contrivance. 2. A crafty or devious contrivance, a trick. 3. Deception itself.
Notes: Today's word is a member of a largely dysfunctional family. It originally meant "workmanship, craft" but now refers to something crafty—another word that has strayed away from its original meaning (compare it with craft). The adjective from this noun, artificial, has taken on its own meaning "not natural, man-made". If you need an adjective with a related meaning, you might try artificious, though most English speakers will not recognize it.
In Play: Life would not move along at all without artifices: "We use all sorts of artifices to get the kids to come to soccer practice: ice cream, videos, cookies after a good practice." Artifices are the foundation of pretexting: "All of Bill Jerome Holm's references and credentials turned out to be artifices to get us to buy land in the Arizona desert from him."
Word History: Today's Good word was borrowed like so many others from an Old French word meaning "craftsmanship". Old French inherited it from Latin artificium "trade, craft" from artifex "craftsman". This word is a compound made up of ar(t)s "art, craft" + -fex, fic- "maker" from facere "to make". Latin ars goes back to a Proto-Indo-European root ar- "fit together" which also turns up in arma "tool, arms", the source of such words as army, armada, and armadillo (diminutive of Spanish armado "armored"). Latin artus "joint" is the correlate of Greek arthron "joint", which underlies arthritis, the joint disease. (We will not resort to any artifice in thanking the most articulate Kathy Garrett for suggesting this Good Word.)
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