a plan, scheme, or trick for surprising or deceiving an enemy.
any artifice, ruse, or trick devised or used to attain a goal or to gain an advantage over an adversary or competitor: business stratagems.

Origin of stratagem

1480–90; (< Middle French stratageme) < Italian stratagemma war ruse < Latin stratēgēma < Greek stratḗgēma instance of generalship, derivative of stratēgeîn to be in command, derivative of stratēgós military commander (see strategy)
Related formsstrat·a·gem·i·cal [strat-uh-jem-i-kuhl] /ˌstræt əˈdʒɛm ɪ kəl/, adjectivestrat·a·gem·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedstratagem strategy

Synonyms for stratagem

Synonym study

1, 2. See trick. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stratagem

Contemporary Examples of stratagem

Historical Examples of stratagem

  • They could not understand the motive, and feared a stratagem.

  • Will they not suspect, when once introduced to you, the stratagem that has been adopted?

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • He merely wished to keep us here a little while until he could by stratagem outflank us.


    Theodor Hertzka

  • The stratagem of the wily savage was thus perfectly successful.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • They resort to every stratagem which a vile and savage spirit could inspire.

British Dictionary definitions for stratagem



a plan or trick, esp one to deceive an enemy

Word Origin for stratagem

C15: ultimately from Greek stratēgos a general, from stratos an army + agein to lead
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 stratagem

"artifice, trick," late 15c., from Middle French stratagème "trick, especially to outwit an enemy," from Italian stratagemma, from Latin strategema "artifice, stratagem," from Greek strategema "the act of a general, military stratagem," from strategein "to be a general, command," from strategos "general" (see strategy).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper