verb (used with object), schemed, schem·ing.

to devise as a scheme; plan; plot; contrive.

verb (used without object), schemed, schem·ing.

to lay schemes; devise plans; plot.

Origin of scheme

1545–55; < Medieval Latin schēma (stem schēmat-) < Greek schêma form, figure
Related formsscheme·less, adjectiveschem·er, nounout·scheme, verb (used with object), out·schemed, out·schem·ing.sub·scheme, nounun·der·scheme, nounun·schemed, adjective

Synonyms for scheme

Synonym study

1, 6. See plan. 10. See plot. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scheme

Contemporary Examples of scheme

Historical Examples of scheme

  • The laughter and talk were as little subdued as the scheme of the rooms.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • They catalogued Dick's virtues, and then Viviette unfolded her scheme.


    William J. Locke

  • On the level, now, do you think you could get away with that young Gilder scheme you've been planning?

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He went to Garson yesterday with a scheme to rob your house.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • It after wards appears that the scheme of Rumi-naui was one of treachery.

    Apu Ollantay


British Dictionary definitions for scheme



a systematic plan for a course of action
a systematic arrangement of correlated parts; system
a secret plot
a visionary or unrealizable project
a chart, diagram, or outline
an astrological diagram giving the aspects of celestial bodies at a particular time
mainly British a plan formally adopted by a commercial enterprise or governmental body, as for pensions, etc
mainly Scot an area of housing that is laid out esp by a local authority; estate


(tr) to devise a system for
to form intrigues (for) in an underhand manner
Derived Formsschemer, noun

Word Origin for scheme

C16: from Latin schema, from Greek skhēma form
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 scheme

1550s, "figure of speech," from Medieval Latin schema "shape, figure, form, appearance; figure of speech; posture in dancing," from Greek skhema (genitive skhematos) "figure, appearance, the nature of a thing," related to skhein "to get," and ekhein "to have," from PIE root *segh- "to hold, to hold in one's power, to have" (cf. Sanskrit sahate "he masters, overcomes," sahah "power, victory;" Avestan hazah "power, victory;" Greek ekhein "to have, hold;" Gothic sigis, Old High German sigu, Old Norse sigr, Old English sige "victory").

The sense "program of action" first is attested 1640s. Unfavorable overtones (selfish, devious) began to creep in early 18c. Meaning "complex unity of coordinated component elements" is from 1736. Color scheme is attested from 1884.


"devise a scheme," 1767 (earlier "reduce to a scheme," 1716), from scheme (n.). Related: Schemed; scheming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with scheme


see best-laid plans (schemes).

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