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An action calculated to frustrate an opponent or gain an advantage indirectly or deviously; a maneuver: "A typical ploy is to feign illness, procure medicine, then sell it on the black market" (Jill Smolowe).

[Perhaps from employ, employment (obsolete).]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. a manoeuvre or tactic in a game, conversation, etc; stratagem; gambit
2. any business, job, hobby, etc, with which one is occupied: angling is his latest ploy.
3. chiefly Brit a frolic, escapade, or practical joke
[C18: originally Scot and northern English, perhaps from obsolete n sense of employ meaning an occupation]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



a maneuver or stratagem to gain the advantage; ruse; subterfuge; gambit.
[1475–85; earlier ploye to bend < Middle French ployer (French plier) < Latin plicāre to fold]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



(See also TRICKERY.)

ace up one’s sleeve A surprise; something of special effectiveness that is held in reserve or hidden from others; a trump card; sometimes card up one’s sleeve. Very similar to an ace in the hole, this expression comes from the cardsharper’s stratagem of hiding needed cards (e.g., aces) in his sleeve until the most advantageous moment to play them. By extension, it has come to mean any secret asset or ploy.

bag of tricks All of one’s resources; the means to an end. This phrase derives from La Fontaine’s fable of the fox and the cat.

But fox, in arts of siege well versed, Ransacked his bag of tricks accursed. (Elizur Wright, trans., La Fontaine’s Fables, 1841)

Bag of tricks can refer to one’s survival techniques in general, or to a specific design one might have up one’s sleeve.

Men were all alike. A woman didn’t have to carry a very big bag of tricks to achieve her purpose. (L. C. Douglas, White Banners, 1936)

bottom of the bag The last resort or expedient in one’s bag of tricks; a trump card held in reserve; an ace up one’s sleeve. Thomas Burton used the phrase in his Diary in 1659:

If this be done, which is in the bottom of the bag, and must be done, we shall … be able to buoy up our reputation.

have something up one’s sleeve To have a secret scheme or trick in mind, to have a surprise planned. The allusion is probably to the way magicians use their sleeves as convenient hiding places for the articles employed in executing their feats of magic.

red herring A diversionary tactic or misleading clue, a subject intended to divert attention from the real issue; a false trail; from the phrase draw a red herring across the trail. In the 17th century, dog trainers followed this practice to sharpen the scent discrimination of hunting hounds. Smoked herring drawn across the trail of a fox is said to destroy or markedly affect the original scent. Figurative use of the term outside the complete phrase dates at least from the late 19th century.

The talk of revolutionary dangers is a mere red-herring. (Liverpool Daily Post, July 11, 1884)

springes to catch woodcocks Snares for the unsuspecting; traps for the unwary. This expression appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (I, iii), when Polonius warns Ophelia that Hamlet’s protestations of affection are but the wily words of a youthful lover, meant to ensnare his naive victim: “springes to catch woodcocks,” he calls them. The phrase usually refers to a deceitful ploy.

Alas, poor woodcock, dost thou go a birding? Thou hast even set a springe to catch thy own neck. (John Dryden, Wild Gallant, 1663)

stalking horse Anything used to conceal a design or scheme, a pretext; a person who serves as a means of allaying suspicion or obscuring an ongoing activity; the agency through which an underhanded objective is attained. The expression appeared in Shakespeare’s As You Like It:

He uses his folly like a stalking horse, and under the presentation of that he shoots his wit. (V, iv)

In bygone days, hunters hid themselves behind a horse as they stalked to within shooting range of the game. The expression early carried its still current figurative sense of the intended concealment of plans, projects, or intentions.

Do you think her fit for nothing but to be a Stalking-Horse to stand before you, while you aim at my wife? (William Congreve, Double Dealer, 1694)

The expression has evolved the extended political meaning of a person whose candidacy is intended to conceal the true candidacy of another, or whose place on the ballot is meant to split the opposition.

throw a curve or a curve ball To employ clever and often deceptive artifice in verbal dealings with another; to trick so as to entrap; to accomplish one’s ends by indirection. The expression derives from baseball; a curve ball is a pitched ball which appears to the batter to be approaching outside the strike zone, but which breaks over the plate and is thus “right on target.” As employed metaphorically, a curve ball is usually a verbal technique, such as a leading question or seemingly casual comment which aims to evoke a specific reaction or to elicit a revealing response, usually one in some way damaging to the respondent. It thus appears innocuous or irrelevant but in actuality it is highly manipulative, and “right on target.”

throw a tub to the whale To create a diversion, or to mislead or bamboozle, in order to avoid an awkward, embarrassing, or dangerous situation.

It has been common to throw out something to divert and amuse the people, such as a plot, a conspiracy, or an enquiry about nothing, … which method of proceeding, by a very apt metaphor, is call’d throwing out the tub. (Charles Molloy, Select Letters taken from Fog’s Weekly Journal, 1728)

Jonathan Swift explains the origin of this expression in the preface to A Tale of a Tub:

Sea-men have a custom when they meet a whale, to fling him out an empty tub, … to divert him from laying violent hands upon the ship.

Tale of a tub meaning ‘an apocryphal story’ dates from the 1500s. However, Swift’s use of throw a tub to the whale in 1704 is the earliest cited use of the expression in the OED.

Trojan horse A snare or trap, a treacherous device or ploy, particularly one appearing as an attractive lure. The allusion is to the tale recounted in Homer’s Iliad. The Greeks, pretending to abandon their siege of Troy, left at its gates a gigantic wooden horse, within which were concealed several Greek soldiers. Interpreting the horse as a gift or peace-offering, the Trojans brought it into the city, whereupon those within stole out during the night to admit the entire Greek force and thus conquer the city. See also beware of Greeks bearing gifts, PRETENSE.

trump card An ace in the hole; a decisive, winning argument, ploy, piece of evidence, etc.; a clincher.

Justice … is the trump card of the western world. (The Times Literary Supplement as quoted in Webster’s Third)

A trump card is literally any card of a suit which outranks the other three suits in a card game. Trump in this term is a corruption of the now obsolete triumph ‘a trump card.’

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.ploy - an opening remark intended to secure an advantage for the speaker
comment, remark, input - a statement that expresses a personal opinion or belief or adds information; "from time to time she contributed a personal comment on his account"
2.ploy - a maneuver in a game or conversation
tactical maneuver, tactical manoeuvre, maneuver, manoeuvre - a move made to gain a tactical end
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


An indirect, usually cunning means of gaining an end:
Informal: shenanigan, take-in.
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
عَمَل، مُهِمَّة بَسيطَه
erindiklækur, kænskubragî


[plɔɪ] Ntruco m, estratagema f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈplɔɪ] nstratagème m
a ploy to do sth → un stratagème pour faire qch
it was just a ploy to get me out of the house → c'était juste un stratagème pour me faire sortir de la maison
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


n (= stratagem)Trick m
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[plɔɪ] nstratagemma m, manovra
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ploi) noun
1. a plan; a manoeuvre. She uses various ploys for getting her own way.
2. a piece of business; a little task. The children were off on some ploy of their own.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in periodicals archive ?
Among the cultural artefacts at risk in the area is the ploy musical instrument associated with the Chorng ethnic minority group that populates the area.
A week after Prime Minister Imran Khan's statement supporting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win Lok Sabha polls, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman termed it a Congress' ploy. The minister alleged that it could be a ploy by the Congress to oust the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.
James adds: "We had to sleep rough, we didn't have much food, and then there was no drink, which was a deliberate ploy, I think - although nobody's admitting to it."
Nagkaisa earlier assailed the deal as a 'ploy to thwart' the passage of Senate Bill No.
Kottayam: Speaking at his ongoing "yatra" near here, state CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the aerial attack conducted by India is a ploy by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh combine to derail the general election process.
Isis bride's baby a sympathy ploy? IN all the furore about Shamima Begum one thing has struck me and that is that in all of the newspaper and television photographs of her we have never actually seen her newborn baby.
Kehinde Aderemi, insisting that the use of military during elections was arbitrary and a ploy to undermine Nigeria's democracy, just as he declared that the country was not a banana republic whereby the Federal Government would strategically foist the military on the citizens during elections.
An Iranian asylum seeker in Britain who raped a teenage girl has been spared deportation even though a judge believed his conversion to Christianity was a deliberate ploy to defeat the justice system.
Summary: Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], Jan 23 (ANI): Reacting to the recent event organised in London where a self proclaimed hacker Syed Shuja claimed that EVMs can be tampered with, BJP leader N Ramachandra Rao on Wednesday said that that the whole episode is a ploy by the Congress party leader Kapil Sibal in order to defame the BJP government and Indian democracy.
NEWCASTLE had just 26% possession against Huddersfield last time out, which Rafa Benitez said was a deliberate ploy to allow his side to break on the counterattack - and his ploy resulted in the only goal of the game.
Ryabkov indicated that the Russian leadership is seeking to discuss the situation in Idlib with the major western powers in the shadow of he said a "ploy" to employ chemical arms in Idlib.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's City Council allies on Monday used a now-familiar political ploy to crowd off the Nov.