• ploy •
ploy • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A pastime, personal undertaking, especially for amusement. 2. A maneuver designed and employed to gain an advantage, a deviously cunning scheme.
Notes: Today's small but Good Word is another loner: it has no corresponding adjective or adverb. The verb ploy has a meaning marginally related at best, the opposite of deploy in the military sense, "to move troops from a line to a column". However, to its credit, it is of the rarest breed: an English word pronounced exactly as it is spelled!
In Play: Today's word refers to behavior integral to the sense of another Good Word, pretexting: "Showing a false law enforcement badge is a common ploy used by pretexters." While not all ploys are illegal, they tend to be devious: "Grusilla has resorted to the cloying ploy of wearing too much perfume in order to attract men."
Word History: If you notice the original meaning of this word (1), you can see how ploy could be simply a shortening of employ. Employ comes from French employer "to use, employ", a verb that derives from Latin implicare "to involve". This verb is made up of in "in" + plicare "to fold" from an original root plok-/plek "to plait, weave". This word came directly to English as flax [flak-s]. The Latin root is visible in many English borrowings, such as complicate (and complex) from the sense of "woven together", implicate in the sense of "woven into". Plait was borrowed by Old English from another French derivative of Latin -plic, -plex, and enfolded into such words as pleat. (Tim Ward used no ploy to get us to run his selection of this Good Word.)