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shell game

a sleight-of-hand swindling game resembling thimblerig but employing walnut shells or the like instead of thimblelike cups.
any deceit, swindle, fraud, or the like.
1885-90, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for shell-game

shell game

the US name for thimblerig
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
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Slang definitions & phrases for shell-game


  1. A beating: ''Shellacking'' and numerous other phrases are employed by the police as euphemisms
  2. A decisive defeat; a drubbing; an utter rout: Should Black take a shellacking, the National Leaguers are in bad trouble (1931+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Encyclopedia Article for shell-game

shell game

oldest and most popular of the tricks traditionally performed by a conjurer. To begin the trick, the performer places a bead or ball (often a pea) under one of three inverted cups (or half-shells). As the cups are rearranged on a flat surface, the ball is made to "jump" invisibly from one cup to another, or to "multiply." The basis for the illusion is a secret additional ball that, by skilled manipulation, is put under one cup while the known ball is removed as secretly from another cup. The manipulative work is aided by the distracting conversation, or patter, of the conjurer.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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