Definition of shenanigan
1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose
2a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct —usually used in pluralb : high-spirited or mischievous activity —usually used in plural
Examples of shenanigan in a sentence
<students engaging in youthful shenanigans on the last day of school>
<an act of vandalism that went way beyond the usual shenanigans at summer camp>
Did You Know?
The history of shenanigan is as tricky and mischievous as its meaning. Etymologists have some theories about its origins, but no one has been able to prove them. All we can say for certain is that the earliest known use of the word in print appeared in the April 25, 1855, issue of San Francisco's Town Talk. Although the "underhanded trick" sense of the word is oldest, the most common senses in use now are "tricky or questionable practices" (as in "political shenanigans") and "high-spirited behavior" (as in "youthful shenanigans").
Origin of shenanigan
First Known Use: 1855
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up shenanigan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).