Americanism from the 1920s, perhaps combining an alteration of fainaigue (to renege) with the suffix +‎ -le (frequentative);[1] compare haggle.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /fɪˈneɪ.ɡəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪɡəl


finagle (third-person singular simple present finagles, present participle finagling, simple past and past participle finagled)

  1. (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by indirect, complicated and/or intensive efforts.
    finagle a day off work
    • 2007, Ashley Ezell, Harvest of Hearts, Ashley Ezell (→ISBN), page 124:
      She finagled her way around so that her arms were now clasped around his neck. So as not to cause a scene, Jason began to sway with her as if they had intended to dance. “Where's your counterpart tonight, Mandy?” he asked with a sly smile. “I thought you and Carl Maycomb were seeing each other.” Mandy answered with a “humph,” indicating she didn't want to talk about Carl.
    • 2012 May 24, Nathan Rabin, “Film: Reviews: Men In Black 3”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      Sequels to fish-out-of-water comedies make progressively less sense the longer a series continues. By the time Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles rolled around in 2001, 15 years after the first Crocodile Dundee became a surprise blockbuster, the title character had been given an awfully long time to grow acclimated to those kooky Americans. Men In Black 3 finagles its way out of this predicament by literally resetting the clock with a time-travel premise that makes Will Smith both a contemporary intergalactic cop in the late 1960s and a stranger to Josh Brolin, who plays the younger version of Smith’s stone-faced future partner, Tommy Lee Jones.
    • 2012, Jonathan Logan Donovan, Husk: A Tale of Human Hunger, AuthorHouse (→ISBN)
      If she encountered an obstacle she could not navigate past, she would spend hours backtracking to find a path she and her cart could navigate. When they were invariably overturned along the way, she shouldered her way under the bars and pushed herself up, flipping it over and depositing herself in the cart. She finagled her way out, slowly and methodically replaced the spilled contents back in and went about her way She stood outside a hair salon for two days...
    • 2017, Allie Pleiter, Myra Johnson, Annie Hemby, Harlequin Love Inspired September 2017-Box Set 2 of 2: The Texas Rancher's New Family\Her Hill Country Cowboy\Healing His Widowed Heart, Harlequin (→ISBN):
      The kitten followed Sophie everywhere and had finagled her way into free run of the house. Cooper didn't much care for the way the little beast acted as if she already owned the place. He certainly didn't care for the way she leaped up onto his desk, and sat on his laptop, as if to say, “Let's see how you get out of this one, cowboy.”
  2. (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by deceitful methods, by trickery.
    finagled his way out of a ticket by pretending to be on the way to a funeral, distraught
    • 2017, Judith Arnold, Kick The Bucket: A Lainie Lovett Mystery, Judith Arnold (→ISBN):
      Down the third-floor hallway, she noticed that the police tape had been removed from George Vandercloop's door. Did that mean Sunrise Village was now free to rent it to a new tenant? She tried the door knob and found it locked. Not that she expected she'd find anything more in the apartment than she'd seen the one time she'd finagled her way inside. Murder by chloroform didn't leave much evidence behind. She U-turned, made her way to the door with “Helen Dorgan” printed on [it] ...
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To cheat or swindle; to use crafty, deceitful methods. (often with "out of" preceding the object)
    ...shady stockbrokers who finagle their clients out of fortunes.

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  1. ^ finagle” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.
  • finagle, The Word Detective, February 12th, 2008
  • finagle at OneLook Dictionary Search