Definition of scheme in US English:



  • 1A large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect.

    ‘a clever marketing scheme’
    • ‘Swindon Council has received an excellent rating for its plan to introduce a new government housing scheme.’
    • ‘Franchise masters and headquarters staff are on hand to help new franchisees establish their business, and provide planning advice and marketing schemes.’
    • ‘Many at present do not join an occupational scheme because they cannot afford the payments.’
    • ‘Since June, final salary pension schemes have been closing at twice the rate of last year.’
    • ‘If the pilot scheme is successful similar schemes could be rolled out across the district in the New Year.’
    • ‘The locals also wanted to impress on public representatives the importance of rerouting the proposed sewerage scheme.’
    • ‘I am a member of an occupational pension scheme approved by the Inland Revenue.’
    • ‘A government compensation scheme is available for asbestos victims who cannot trace their previous employer.’
    • ‘With the advent of primary care groups in 1999 a new incentive scheme was devised to influence prescribing.’
    • ‘In some States, I know there is a similar statutory scheme with respect to boats.’
    • ‘The Commission for Communications Regulation has introduced a new licensing scheme for local area broadband fixed wireless access services.’
    • ‘The scheme is due to be completed by the end of this year.’
    • ‘He always had various practical schemes and engineering ideas he thought could help other countries.’
    • ‘Firstly, individual members of occupational pensions schemes do not have votes.’
    • ‘Victims were duped by bogus get-rich-quick schemes involving fake documents before the scam was exposed.’
    • ‘His team's scheme includes a central module where people can relax and socialize.’
    • ‘While there may be sound business reasons to focus on clever marketing schemes and building new stadiums, such a focus has come at the expense of the quality of play.’
    • ‘Then individuals could protect themselves against the risk of needing health care by voluntary insurance schemes.’
    • ‘The entire scheme is due to be completed by the end of 2005.’
    • ‘Both schemes aim to crackdown on problems such as rowdy youths and anti-social behaviour.’
    plan, project, plan of action, programme, strategy, stratagem, game plan
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A secret or underhanded plan; a plot.
      ‘police uncovered a scheme to steal paintings worth more than $250,000’
      • ‘Typically, the schemes and plots end in frustration and disaster.’
      • ‘We're told that plots and schemes occurred, but we rarely see them actually playing out.’
      • ‘Lyssandra, being herself, had been quite willing to earn some return on his care, and had put Adam to good use in her various plots and schemes.’
      • ‘He plots a scheme to make Othello believe that Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio.’
      • ‘With the Filumena caught up in a bootlegging scheme, the plot goes wrong and a constable is murdered, leaving her to hang.’
      • ‘Two years, they had plotted and planned this scheme, progressing their efforts and perfecting their means.’
      • ‘A child is never too young to harbor deadly secrets, or plot diabolical schemes.’
      • ‘I have no ulterior motives, no plots or secret schemes.’
      • ‘Unless, of course, they were truly plotting some schemes against him.’
      • ‘Well, the fourteen - year-old's mind had already begun to plot schemes.’
      • ‘A mild-mannered couple use a variety of distract-and-grab schemes to steal laptops from business travelers.’
      • ‘The combination of the two are highly effective at detecting scams, schemes and illicit practices.’
      • ‘They'd be in a fancy hotel with room service, plotting their evil schemes or whatever it was government representatives did.’
      • ‘They still thought I had secret plans, evil schemes, and I was at a loss as to how to convince them otherwise.’
      • ‘She could sniff intrigue and schemes blowing on the wind, they said.’
      • ‘As I note below, the scheme for stealing the nuclear weapons is exceedingly hokey, and as in the original the story drags at times.’
      • ‘I know your past, I know your missions, your plots, plans, schemes, faults, weaknesses, interests, everything really.’
      • ‘Lies, coincidences, plots, and schemes are everywhere, and no one can trust anyone.’
      • ‘The premise remains interesting, but the plot is cluttered with schemes and counter-schemes that seem unrealistic at best and pointless at worst.’
      • ‘I don't really want to involve Brian in my scheme to get a plot.’
      plot, intrigue, conspiracy, secret plan
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A particular ordered system or arrangement.
      ‘a classical rhyme scheme’
      • ‘He embraces a broad range of rhyme and syllabic schemes.’
      • ‘Some residents are also claiming the finished building has not followed the design and colour scheme which was approved.’
      • ‘Both of these rooms have a similar colour scheme to the hall and are in immaculate condition.’
      • ‘To assess the central questions of the investigation we devised a coding scheme.’
      arrangement, system, organization, configuration, pattern, format, layout, disposition
      View synonyms
  • 2Scottish informal A public housing complex.

    ‘the whole scheme is plunged into darkness, bar the light in Victor's house’
    • ‘Mary, a 21-year-old mother of four living in one of Glasgow's most deprived housing schemes, is one of Starting Well's early success stories.’
    • ‘It's almost like the Machiavellian housing policies that coerced them into the outer schemes in the first place have been super successful.’
    • ‘They've all left already, moved away to the schemes.’
    • ‘They came to the city three years ago as part of the Home Office's asylum seeker dispersal programme and were housed in one of north-east Glasgow's most notorious housing schemes.’
    • ‘As it turns out he didni walk it from the the scheme into the city after all; he was going to but eventually he couldni be bothered, he took a taxi.’
    • ‘He had his own house down the shorefront scheme; big black finger-stains round the keyhole and the curtains always shut.’
    • ‘I took tram number 17 from his depressing little scheme in the western sector into the city centre.’
    • ‘What, in this dreich mid-January, is the public mood on the Easterhouse scheme (the English call them council estates) in Glasgow?’
    • ‘Outside in the playground, and around about the scheme, he had discovered the sweet secret of invisibility, a means of moving round the fringes without really being seen.’
    • ‘The signs of urban deprivation are easiest to see in Prospecthill Circus, the sprawling scheme in which Toryglen's share of asylum seekers have been housed.’
    • ‘I'm a working-class Weedgie who grew up in a scheme.’
    • ‘Kerr first met the band's other cornerstone, guitarist Charlie Burchill, in a sandpit in Glasgow's Toryglen housing scheme when he was eight.’
    • ‘He'd got up from the kitchen table and pedalled up the hill from the old tenement in Shuttle Place through the Darroch Council house scheme.’
    • ‘After his Panel hearing, he led them to a muddy burn, a tributary of the Clyde, that ran through the back of the scheme where he lived.’


[no object]
  • Make plans, especially in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong.

    with infinitive ‘he schemed to bring about the collapse of the government’
    • ‘Later in the movie, Pippo acquits himself as expected, scheming to save Elena with a tailor-made plan that should sew the plot up nicely - but the audience knows that it's about to get knotty.’
    • ‘‘You were plotting and planning and scheming again,’ Emilyn tried to explain.’
    • ‘Unnoticed and unsuspected, they schemed to bring terror and destruction to the streets of Britain.’
    • ‘Various dragons have been scheming, plotting, and trying to get him for years, and they've pretty much all ended up dead trying.’
    • ‘They are scheming and conniving and sometimes thoughtlessly cruel, too.’
    • ‘Doubtless the politicians will enjoy plotting and scheming in the Jacobean nooks and corners.’
    • ‘She chats with me totally unaware that I'm practically scheming the whole time.’
    • ‘After scheming for 13 years, hers is a cold and calculated act, working to a master plan.’
    • ‘She was incredibly intelligent, with a pristine photographic memory, and knew when someone was scheming for something.’
    • ‘Initially she was tempted to drift off into fantasies, or use the time to plot or scheme but she knew this was wrong.’
    • ‘She is scheming for Aimee and me to be betrothed before the season is over.’
    • ‘Some of the ‘characters’ on the show were so entertaining - especially those that plotted and schemed against the others.’
    • ‘Instead of actors following scripts in a studio, audiences can see people very like themselves plotting and scheming for advantage in any setting imaginable.’
    • ‘I hate it when she's like this because secretly behind her calm demeanor she's plotting and scheming.’
    • ‘Over the years it has been accused of everything from gross ineptitude and massive corruption to scheming for world domination.’
    • ‘There is much evidence that these officers spent much of their time scheming for their own political advantage and in hopes of being assigned their own regiments.’
    • ‘So, they planned, schemed, and worked hard throughout the night.’
    • ‘He not only lied, he actively plotted and schemed to pervert the course of justice.’
    • ‘It was a secret operation that Michael had been scheming for years.’
    • ‘An even more interesting possibility is that they were not merely actors but nimbly planning ones who schemed to exploit their would-be exploiters.’
    plot, hatch a plot, conspire, take part in a conspiracy, intrigue, connive, manoeuvre, plan, lay plans
    View synonyms


  • the scheme of things

    • A supposed or apparent overall system, within which everything has a place and in relation to which individual details are ultimately to be assessed.

      ‘in the overall scheme of things, we didn't do badly’
      • ‘Whether it takes another 10 days or two weeks, in the scheme of things, it's immaterial.’
      • ‘I don't think I'm being totally too free and loose by describing that as a relatively small risk in the scheme of things.’
      • ‘I'm mildly concerned that if I go out for lunch I probably won't be able to pay rent this week, but really this is a minor problem in the scheme of things.’
      • ‘It stemmed from an attempt to figure out my place in the scheme of things.’
      • ‘‘In the scheme of things, trying to get to the bottom of that is relatively unimportant,’ he said.’
      • ‘On the other hand, the costs of ignoring security and getting hacked have been, in the scheme of things, relatively small.’
      • ‘I suspect the creator of this book, like me, just likes to see where she fits into the scheme of things - how far ahead or how far behind we may be in the great game of life.’
      • ‘But they are relatively trivial in the scheme of things.’
      • ‘If man is just a speck in the universe, like a bacteria, what does he matter in the scheme of things?’
      • ‘Both these events were very insignificant in the scheme of things and received almost as little attention then as they do currently.’


Mid 16th century (denoting a figure of speech): from Latin schema, from Greek (see schema). An early sense was ‘diagram of the position of celestial objects’, giving rise to ‘diagram, outline’, whence the current senses. The unfavorable notion ‘plot’ arose in the mid 18th century.