Sleight of hand

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Sleight is an old noun meaning deftness, dexterity, cunning, or a trick. The word is preserved primarily in the idiom sleight of hand deftness of the hand or a trick of the hand, depending on which sense of sleight we use. There are literal sleights of hand—for example, card tricks—but the term is more often used metaphorically to refer to instances of trickery, craftiness, or deception.

The idiom is often misspelled slight of hand, which, taken literally, might describe someone who has small hands.


Gov. Brian Sandoval has promised not to raise taxes and produced a budget that accomplishes that with cuts and sleight of hand. [Las Vegas Sun]

I think that’s why I relate so strongly to the aging magician at the heart of Sylvain Chomet’s sleight-of-hand masterpiece. [Danvers Herald]

The damaged king, who by artistic sleight of hand is Everyman, can be restored to full potency when he gets his voice back. [The Guardian (letter to the editor)]