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Americanism from the 1920s, perhaps combining an alteration of fainaigue (to renege) with the suffix +‎ -le (frequentative);[1] compare haggle.



finagle (third-person singular simple present finagles, present participle finagling, simple past and past participle finagled)

  1. (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by indirect and usually deceitful methods.
    • 2012 May 24, Nathan Rabin, “Film: Reviews: Men In Black 3”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      Sequels to fish-out-of-water comedies make progressively less sense the longer a series continues. By the time Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles rolled around in 2001, 15 years after the first Crocodile Dundee became a surprise blockbuster, the title character had been given an awfully long time to grow acclimated to those kooky Americans. Men In Black 3 finagles its way out of this predicament by literally resetting the clock with a time-travel premise that makes Will Smith both a contemporary intergalactic cop in the late 1960s and a stranger to Josh Brolin, who plays the younger version of Smith’s stone-faced future partner, Tommy Lee Jones.
    ...finagle a day off from work.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To cheat or swindle; to use crafty, deceitful methods. (often with "out of" preceding the object)
    ...shady stockbrokers who finagle their clients out of fortunes.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ finagle” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2017.
  • finagle, The Word Detective, February 12th, 2008