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Word of the Day
Monday, October 02, 2017

Definitions for thimblerig

  1. a sleight-of-hand swindling game in which the operator palms a pellet or pea while appearing to cover it with one of three thimblelike cups, and then, moving the cups about, offers to bet that no one can tell under which cup the pellet or pea lies.
  2. to cheat by or as by the thimblerig.

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Citations for thimblerig
Many different kinds of games were the sucker's ruin--monte, chuck-a-luck, vingt-et-un, keno, roulette, euchre, craps, loo, banco, thimblerig, and a dozen others ... Richard Erdoes, "Bucking the Tiger," Legends and Tales of the American West, 1991
Always prepare multiple plans. Life is a thimblerig. Never let anyone know which cup holds the pea. Stina Leicht, Blackthorne, 2017
Origin of thimblerig
The venerable swindle thimblerig is nowadays called the shell game (an Americanism dating from about 1890), in which walnut shells or small cups are used for the classic thimbles. The -rig of thimblerig is from the archaic noun rig "swindle, fraud." The verb sense of rig is alive and well in the U.S. in the meaning “manipulate fraudulently” (for example, the price of precious metals). Thimblerig entered English in the early 19th century.