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An alteration of Scots sculduddery, sculdudrie (adultery, unchaste behaviour; obscenity). [1]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /skʌlˈdʌɡəɹi/, /skʌlˈdʌɡɹi/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌskʌlˈdʌɡəɹi/, /ˌskʌlˈdʌɡɹi/, /ˌskəlˈdəɡ-/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: skul‧dug‧ge‧ry


skulduggery (countable and uncountable, plural skulduggeries)

  1. (countable) A devious device or trick.
    Synonyms: ruse, stratagem, subterfuge
    • 1935, Public Utilities Fortnightly, volume 15, number 2, Washington, D.C.: Public Utilities Reports, ISSN 0033-3808, OCLC 1639840, page 399, column 1:
      A private company cannot get away with a skulduggery of that sort. Once it has paid out its money for taxes, it cannot reach into the public treasury and get it back and apply it on its amortization account.
    • 1941, Norman Cousins, editor, Saturday Review, volume 24, New York, N.Y.: Saturday Review Associates, ISSN 0036-4983, OCLC 905082202, page 6:
      And you, O student, might do worse than to investigate the assorted sculduggeries of this obscure trio: []
    • 1954 April 10, John Cheever, “The Five-Forty-Eight”, in The New Yorker[1], New York, N.Y.: New Yorker Magazine Inc., ISSN 0028-792X, OCLC 243417341, archived from the original on 2 November 2018; republished in David Remnick and Susan Choi, editors, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Modern Library, 2001, →ISBN, pages 4–5:
      The reports in his briefase had no bearing on war, peace, the dope traffic, the hydrogen bomb, or any of the other international skulduggeries that he associated with pursuers, men in trench coats, and wet sidewalks.
    • 2002, J. Douglas Smith, quoting the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, “Little Tyrannies and Petty Skullduggeries”, in Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia, Chapel Hill, N.C.; London: University of North Carolina Press, →ISBN, page 137:
      What exhibition of rapaciousness, race prejudice and political spoliation could be cheaper, commoner, or meaner? These are the little tyrannies and petty skullduggeries that make bitter the relations between the races.
  2. (uncountable) Dishonest, underhanded, or unscrupulous activities or behaviour.
    Synonyms: dishonesty, jiggery-pokery, subterfuge, thugduggery, trickery, underhandedness, unscrupulousness
    Antonyms: honesty, probity
    • 1857 July 27, St. A. D. Balcombe, President of the Convention; T. F. Andrews, official reporter, “Thirteenth Day”, in Debates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention for the Territory of Minnesota, to Form a State Constitution Preparatory to Its Admission into the Union as a State (Records of the States of the United States), Saint Paul, Minn.: George W. Moore, printer [], published 1858, OCLC 32834085, page 126, column 1:
      And I have another reason which I will express to my St Paul friends, and that is, that they have always been controlled in their political action here by a class of men who have always some traps set for the country members—by men who are always up to this border ruffian kind of trickery—this kind of skullduggery, as it is called in Minnesota. And now St. Paul allows herself to be controlled by these same border ruffian politicians.
    • 1867, Hans Patrick Le Connor [pseudonym; John L. Bowman], “The Railroad ‘Ring.’ [A Chapter Devoted Exclusively to the Celebrated Iron Mountain Railroad Transaction.]”, in You and Me; or, Sketches for Both of Us, St. Louis, Mo.: George Knapp & Co., printers and binders, OCLC 1031783673, page 48:
      How did Hercules (Herc. of antiquity) slay the Hydrant and cleanse the stables of Oregon? Did it all by main force, didn't he? Power? Shenanigan? Skulduggery? Of course he did.
    • 1870, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, “The Dead Sea.—The Physical Geography and History of Its Basin.”, in The Heart of the Continent: A Record of Travel across the Plains and in Oregon, with an Examination of the Mormon Principle, New York, N.Y.: Published by Hurd and Houghton [], OCLC 984521771, page 385:
      [] I discovered this particular one to be merely a shallow recess in the limestone, nowhere reëntrant to a distance of over forty feet, of the general proportions of a tin oven, and transacting an immense business of mystery (or what they call, as far west as this, "Shenandigan" and "Scullduggery") with those who gape at it from below, on the capital of a dark, overgrown portal, as big as the cave itself.
    • 1873 June 3, Barnabas Burns; J. G. Adel, official reporter, “Fourteenth Day”, in Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, Assembled in the City of Columbus, on Tuesday, May 13, 1873, volume I, Cleveland, Oh.: W. S. Robison & Co., printers to the Convention, [], OCLC 1039358341, page 163, column 2:
      Mr. BURNS wanted to hear from the gentleman from Logan on his amendment, to see whether there was any "sculduggery" about it.
    • 1937 June, R. B. Sullivan, “Education via the Two-pay”, in Arnold Gingrich, editor, Esquire: The Magazine for Men, volume VII, number 6 (number 43 overall), Chicago, Ill.: Esquire, Inc., ISSN 0014-0791, OCLC 752409455, page 237, column 2:
      The crew manager collects all the money from his workers. They operate in more or less close formation, with the manager lurking around the edges, riding herd in his car or walking between cover points. Thus, the solicitor has little chance for skullduggery. His receipts are numbered and he has to account for them.
    • 1964, Leonard Sanders, “Introduction”, in The Wooden Horseshoe, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, OCLC 1379504; republished as James Ward Lee, editor, The Wooden Horseshoe: A Novel (Texas Tradition Series; 24), Fort Worth, Tex.: Texas Christian University Press, 1997, →ISBN, page xiv:
      But in the writing, I prudently had changed the plot away from all the skulduggery I knew about, or suspected, or had heard about. Not until later did I learn that the skulduggery cooked up in my imagination was close to real-life skulduggery elsewhere.
    • 1980 June 6, Arthur James Faulkner, “Adjournment—Northern Maori Electoral Roll”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): Second Session, Thirty-ninth Parliament (House of Representatives), volume 429, Wellington: P. D. Hasselberg, government printer, OCLC 191255532, page 566:
      Government members are now talking about skullduggery. Whose skullduggery are they referring to? If there is any skullduggery it will be because many eligible people are denied the opportunity to cast a valid vote, and that is all the more reason for the House to pass the Electoral Law Amendment Bill today. I do not want any skullduggery in elections at any time, []
    • 2007, David Potter, chapter 1, in The Emperors of Rome, page 27:
      Exploiting his position as consul..., he promised to introduce legislation to help the two men overcome their present difficulties if they, in return, would give their backing to a bill granting Caeser a five-year command in the province of his choice. This naked political skulduggery provoked scemes of uproar in the senate

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  1. ^ skulduggery, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1986; “sculduddery, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1911; “skulduggery”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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