[pres-ti-dij-i-tey-shuh n]


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 formspres·ti·dig·i·ta·tor, nounpres·ti·dig·i·ta·to·ry [pres-ti-dij-i-tuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˌprɛs tɪˈdɪdʒ ɪ təˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, pres·ti·dig·i·ta·to·ri·al, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prestidigitator

Historical Examples of prestidigitator

  • 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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for prestidigitator



another name for sleight of hand
Derived Formsprestidigitator, noun

Word Origin for prestidigitation

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

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