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[pres-ti-dij-i-tey-shuh n] /ˌprɛs tɪˌdɪdʒ ɪˈteɪ ʃən/
sleight of hand; legerdemain.
Origin of prestidigitation
1855-60; < French: literally, ready-fingeredness, coinage perhaps based on prestigiateur juggler, conjurer, derivative of Latin praestīgiae juggler's tricks (see prestige). See prest1, digit, -ation
Related forms
prestidigitator, noun
[pres-ti-dij-i-tuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˌprɛs tɪˈdɪdʒ ɪ təˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA),
prestidigitatorial, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for prestidigitator
Historical Examples
  • It was for all the world like the performance of a prestidigitator.

    King Coal Upton Sinclair
  • Such a prestidigitator as Signor Fantoccini has only to say—Presto!

    Hearts and Masks

    Harold MacGrath
  • A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • It passed before Flora's eyes like a prestidigitator's trick, so rapid as to seem unreal, and left her staring.

    The Coast of Chance Esther Chamberlain
  • After assuring himself that the coast was clear Sube drew back his sleeves in imitation of a prestidigitator.

    Sube Cane Edward Bellamy Partridge
  • At all these performances there are always amongst the spectators persons in league with the prestidigitator.

  • There appears to be no affinity between the prestidigitator and the theatrical manager, yet they both make passes.

    The New Pun Book

    Thomas A. Brown and Thomas Joseph Carey
  • Verily, love is a prestidigitator who can change the lion into the lamb as easily as a handkerchief into a flower-pot!

    Mrs. Craddock W. Somerset Maugham
British Dictionary definitions for prestidigitator


another name for sleight of hand
Derived Forms
prestidigitator, noun
Word Origin
C19: from French: quick-fingeredness, from Latin praestigiae feats of juggling, tricks, probably influenced by French preste nimble, and Latin digitus finger; see prestige
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prestidigitator

1843, from French prestidigitateur, a hybrid coined 1830 by Jules de Rovère (who sought a new word, "qui s'accorderait mieux à ses nobles origines" to replace escamoteur and physicien), roughly based on Latin praestigiator "juggler" (see prestigious); influenced by Italian presto "quick," a conjuror's word (see presto), and by Latin digitus "finger" (see digit).



1843, from French prestidigitation, which was coined along with prestidigitator (q.v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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