Saturday, March 21, 2009


knavery [NAY-və-rē]
n. an instance of trickery or mischief

[From German Knabe ("boy") + ery]

A knave is "an unprincipled, untrustworthy, or dishonest person," and thus knavery is what he does.

Knave, rascal, rogue, scoundrel are disparaging terms applied to persons considered base, dishonest, or worthless. Knave, which formerly meant merely a boy or servant, in modern use emphasizes baseness of nature and intention: a dishonest and swindling knave. (When a word evolves to take on a negative implication, that process is called "pejoration" by linguists.)

Rascal suggests "shrewdness and trickery in dishonesty." A rogue is "a worthless fellow who sometimes preys extensively upon the community by fraud." A scoundrel is "a blackguard and rogue of the worst sort." A blackguard is "a thoroughly unprincipled person." A villain is "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime." A scamp is "an unscrupulous and often mischievous person." A scapegrace is "a habitually unscrupulous person." A rapscallion is "a rascal." And a scalawag is "a scoundrel, especially a white Southerner who supported Reconstruction policies after the American Civil War.".

Some instances of knavery in the press:

The Nigerian Guardian:
The country has in some cases wasted huge resources in conducting fresh elections, on account of the ineptitude and knavery of the (Independent National Electoral Commission).

MWC News:
Bush-style reconstruction has failed dismally in Iraq, thanks to thievery, knavery, and sheer incompetence, and is now essentially ending...

A New York Times obituary of James "Scotty" Reston in 1995:
In 50 years as a reporter, columnist and editor for The New York Times, Scotty Reston saw enough pestilence and knavery to satisfy anyone's appetite for misery. But he never much liked it, and he never succumbed to it.

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