Noun > Ruse

Noun – Ruse

We took the word “ruse” from French, but you can trace it all the way back to a Latin word meaning “to reject or oppose.”

Imagine you’re hunting a deer. She wants to throw you off her track, naturally. In French, and originally in English also, a ruse is a sneaky turn that this creature makes to throw you off its track. In other words, the first meaning of “ruse” was “a clever detour to avoid being captured by a hunter.

From there, the meaning loosened up. Now, a ruse is any sneaky little trick, especially the kind that helps you avoid getting caught.

Part of speech:

Noun, the countable kind: “It was just a ruse to gain their trust,” “We found out later about the ruse.”

Other forms:

The only common one is the plural, “ruses.”

There’s a rare adjective, “rusé,” pronounced “roo ZAY.” It means “using ruses a lot: sly, sneaky, tricky.”

how to use it:

Because a ruse is always sneaky and often criminal, we tend to spit out the word “ruse” with an angry sneer.

Talk about someone’s ruse. Or, talk about someone using or employing a ruse, falling for a ruse, seeing through a ruse, exposing a ruse, etc.

Often we talk about a ruse to accomplish something: “it was a ruse to increase profits,” “it was a ruse to steal people’s identities,” “it was a ruse to sell unnecessary tests.”


“He found his calling as a singer, but his parents objected… At university in California, Sumney studied creative writing with a focus on poetry, a ruse to throw his parents off the music scent.”
— Sheldon Pearce, The Guardian, 29 February 2020

“Crudely edited, deliberately misleading videos and images [known as cheap fakes] are still effective, and they’re still allowed on most platforms. What’s a cheap fake? Something like this video of campaign workers doing a corny dance in support of presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. In reality, they aren’t campaign workers at all — they’re audience members at an improv show filming a bit for a comedian, who shared it on a Twitter profile he had edited to make it appear as if he worked for Bloomberg. The ruse was exposed relatively quickly, but plenty of people still fell for it.”
— Casey Newton, The Verge, 8 January 2020

“‘Tell me what those English witches do, Grandmamma,’ I said.
‘Well’ she said, sucking away at her stinking cigar, ‘their favourite ruse is to mix up a powder that will turn a child into some creature or other that all grown-ups hate.’
‘What sort of a creature, Grandmamma?’
‘Often it’s a slug,’ she said.”

— Roald Dahl, The Witches, 1983