Definition of shell game in English:

shell game


  • 1North American A game involving sleight of hand, in which three inverted cups or nutshells are moved about, and contestants must spot which is the one with a pea or other object underneath.

    ‘One way they can achieve this is to have their friend Ron play a variation of the familiar shell game by hiding a pea under one of three walnut shells, numbered 1, 2 and 3.’
    • ‘Finding the company's real revenue-as opposed to reported revenue-was akin to locating the hidden bean in a shell game.’
    • ‘Usually, when you see him on television, you get the impression that just minutes before, he was fleecing the tourists, running a crooked shell game in the alley.’
    • ‘A carnival may be more like it, because many of these tax cuts are like the pea in the huckster's shell game - now you see them, now you don't.’
    1. 1.1A deceptive and evasive action or ploy, especially a political one.
      ‘officials played a shell game by loading prisoners onto buses during population counts at the jail’
      • ‘They've played this shell game and this terrible game for years and again, I think we need to call them on it.’
      • ‘But we should also say this is a bit of a shell game.’
      • ‘His vision of national pride seems a shell game.’
      • ‘Instead, privatizers like to play a shell game where they use gloomy assumptions for Social Security and rosy assumptions for privatization.’
      • ‘The great shell game of book editors disappearing from one house and reappearing in another had begun, filling already anxious authors with dread.’
      • ‘The shell game and company were over within months.’
      • ‘With younger players, the shell game works even more.’
      • ‘But this is a shell game, a little mystery that progresses over the course of the film until you finally put the pieces together and realise what it is.’
      • ‘But international carbon trading turned out to be a shell game.’
      • ‘Scouts and team officials always play such a shell game that it's hard to figure out what's a true read and what's not.’
      • ‘The Internet can be used anonymously, or as a shell game to hide identities.’
      • ‘Federal budget cuts often seem to be a bit of a shell game.’
      • ‘As a result, the Democrats' second TV spot likened the Republicans' fiscal policies to a shell game.’
      • ‘The incident spotlights the shell game being run on state campuses across North America under the guise of free speech.’
      • ‘Through a semantic shell game, the crime is being so redefined that it is becoming unrecognizable.’
      • ‘Your tax dollars are really being shuffled around in a shell game of paper work and political rhetoric.’
      • ‘By focusing the debate on solvency the politicians, many of whom are themselves near retirement age already, are playing a shell game.’
      • ‘And the tax cut is basically a shell game when it comes to numbers.’
      • ‘It is a shell game, with information being shifted around and then hidden.’
      • ‘But roofing is an expensive process, and deferring a tear-off might be a kind of shell game in which costs are shifted to other aspects of the roofing process.’


shell game

/ˈSHel ˌɡām/ /ˈʃɛl ˌɡeɪm/