• A statement or action meant to deceive, often through misdirection or distraction


A ruse isn't just any lie. A ruse involves a more elaborate process of deception than merely making a false claim, although making a false claim might be part of a ruse. For example, a heartbroken young man might sob, "She only pretended to love me! It was all a ruse to get close enough to steal the family jewels!" Doubtless many lies were involved in the tragic ruse which the young man is describing, but the artificial relationship as a whole is itself the ruse. This ruse, like many ruses, is a sort of diversion or distraction. The crafty woman in this scenario used romance as a ruse to blind her victim to her true intentions. Similarly, if you were negotiating with a slick businessman, you might remind yourself that his warm smile is, perhaps, only a ruse. This would mean that his smile was potentially deceptive in that it is concealing cunning or greed. Ruse could also be used to describe deceptive tricks employed in sports. For instance, after a trick play in football, such as a false pass, you could exclaim, "Ha! Those suckers fell for the ruse, and we've gained 20 yards!" There are many other deceptive tricks in many other contexts which we could point to, including even ruses employed for some good end, such as a made up story used by a young man to trick his sweetheart into showing up at the right place at the right for a marriage proposal! However, the basic meaning of ruse between all of these usages is the same: it is a deceitful artifice which is employed to accomplish some end, whether that end be a touchdown or a jewel theft, or anything else.

Example: Every time Gordon claimed to be feeling ill, Mindy would unquestionably fall for his ruse and wait on him like a baby.

Example: "Linda's reclusive genius shtick is really little more than a ruse to conceal her difficulty in forming relationships," asserted Pamela huffily.

Example: At some companies mandatory morning meetings are a ruse to get employees to show up early.


Ruse, which entered English in the early 15th century, at first referred to the movements which a hunted animal used to escape its pursuant. It was appropriated into English from the Old French reuse which means a swift change in flight or more broadly a diversion or a trick. This Old French noun stems from the French verb reuser, meaning "to dodge" or "to deceive," and most likely derives from the Latin verb recusare, which means "to deny" or "to object." Alternative explanations suggest that the French word may come from the Latin rursus, meaning backwards, or from the Vulgar Latin refusare, meaning to refuse. In English, ruse gained the general meaning of a deceptive trick in the 17th century.

Derivative Words

Ruse de Guerre: This phrase, borrowed from the French, refers to a deceptive tactial maneuver in warfare.

Example: The general's clever ruse de guerre enabled him to flank the enemy and take them by surprise.

In Literature

From John Gardner's Grendel:

I found myself not listening, merely looking at his mouth which moved--or so it seemed to me--independent of the words, as if the body of the stranger were a ruse, a disguise for something infinitely more terrible.

Here, Gardner's Grendel uses ruse, in describing Beowulf, to suggest that Beowulf's body, specifically the disconnect between his words and his motions, is merely a trick distracting him from a far more terrible reality.


  • If someone falls for a ruse,
    Their trust might get a bruise.


Trickery, Deception, Lies, Tricks, Pranks

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of ruse. Did you use ruse in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.