dirty tricks


plural noun Informal.

Politics. unethical or illegal campaign practices or pranks intended to disrupt or sabotage the campaigns of opposing candidates.
any similar practices carried out against rival countries or corporations for espionage or commercial purposes.

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Origin of dirty tricks

First recorded in 1970–75

OTHER WORDS FROM dirty tricks

dirt·y-trick·er·y [dur-tee-trik-uh-ree], /ˈdɜr tiˈtrɪk ə ri/, noundirty-tricks, adjectivedirt·y-trick·ster [dur-tee-trik-ster], /ˈdɜr tiˈtrɪk stər/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Idioms and Phrases with dirty tricks

dirty tricks

Undercover or clandestine operations and deceitful stratagems in politics and espionage. For example, This campaign has been dominated by the dirty tricks of both sides. The adjective dirty here is used in the sense of “unethical” or “unfair.” The term originally was applied to covert intelligence operations carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, whose planning directorate was nicknamed “department of dirty tricks.” It later was extended to underhanded activity intended to undermine political opponents and commercial rivals. [1940s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.