is there a synonym for "manipulation" that carries the connotation of "influence by artful means" but lacks the connotation of "physical interaction involving hands"?

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    I've no doubt that most uses of manipulation are metaphorical, and it's very likely that a significant proportion of native speakers who are perfectly familiar with that metaphorical sense don't even know the literal one. In short, this is probably a non-issue for native speakers, because ordinarily the connotation "physical interaction involving hands" simply doesn't arise . – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '18 at 16:34
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    ...just as we don't normally interpret interference as carrying connotations of inappropriate sexual touching of [a minor's] genitals. – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '18 at 16:38
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    Yeah, I gotta second @FumbleFingers here. When you say someone is, for example, "manipulative", you're not trying to suggest they actively touch people and/or use their hands to achieve said manipulation. – AleksandrH Jun 3 '18 at 16:53
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    @AleksandrH: If you're trying to manipulate this discussion thread by putting words into my mouth, I just hope you washed your hands first! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '18 at 17:03
  • I don't know—my massage therapist likes to manipulate me on a regular basis . . . ;) – Jason Bassford Jun 3 '18 at 20:15

I am going to add puppet master because puppet master controls from behind the scenes, manipulating people and things like a puppeteer operating a puppet. http://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/puppet-master/

  • how is "puppet master" synonymous with "manipulation"? "puppet mastery" makes considerably more sense but still seems pretty wide of the mark. – zed ecks Jun 8 '18 at 14:08

n. sway TFD

n. 2. Influence or control:

  • i'm looking for a noun – zed ecks Jun 8 '18 at 11:55
  • @zedecks aye aye! – lbf Jun 8 '18 at 12:05
  • IMO, "sway" doesn't adequately convey artfulness or purpose – zed ecks Jun 8 '18 at 13:43
  • and on a meta note, for the sake of preserving the continuity of the discussion, i think it's preferable when editing a response to leave the original text in place with strikethroughs. as it is, it took me a while to notice you had edited your response at all. – zed ecks Jun 8 '18 at 13:50

I was going to provide coercion, but that implies intimidation. The question specifically made use of the term "artful means"—which is something more subtle and intellectual.


finagled; finagling

to obtain by indirect or involved means · finagle a ride home

to obtain by trickery · finagled his way into the concert

to use devious or dishonest methods to achieve one's ends · A con man finagled my neighbor out of $400.

let me look at my schedule and see if I can't finagle a visit to the museum

Edited to add an alternative in the same vein.


a person who supplies the directing or creative intelligence for a project
a person who plans and organizes something

the real mastermind behind the embezzlement scheme
They masterminded a unique solution to the problem.

  • i'm not sure if i can adequately explain why, but "finagling" doesn't seem to be quite what i'm after. i think it's that the implication of deviousness or trickery conveys too much artfulness. – zed ecks Jun 8 '18 at 14:03
  • @zedecks I updated my answer with a different word, and will leave it to others if it's still not quite right. :) – Jason Bassford Jun 8 '18 at 14:18

Here is one last attempt, in a different sense. If this is also not what you're after, you will need to provide some specific sentence examples with "blanks" so that the meaning you're after is clearer.



1 : hoodwink · beguiled her classmates into doing the work for her
2 : to engage the interest of by or as if by guile · His seductive voice beguiled the audience.
3 : to lead by deception · beguiled into ambush


to deceive by wiles · had intended to beguile

Something can also be beguiling:

agreeably or charmingly attractive or pleasing · a beguiling manner · a beguiling aroma


Handling: the action of touching with the hands (or the skillful use of the hands) or by the use of mechanical means

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    Erm... OP specifically asked for an expression for which the "literal" sense doesn't relate to touching with hands. – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '18 at 16:39

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