she·nan·i·gan | \ shə-ˈna-ni-gən \

Definition of shenanigan 

1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose

2a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct usually used in plural

b : high-spirited or mischievous activity usually used in plural

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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").

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

Recent Examples on the Web

And thank you, Juan, for putting up with all my shenanigans. Fox News, "Senate fight awaits Trump's Supreme Court pick," 10 July 2018 Barkley’s teammates also were willing to put up with his shenanigans. Scott Bordow, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns – and fans – reach silver anniversary of love affair with 1993 Western Conference champions," 16 June 2018 The head of the UAW reasserted this week that the union’s leaders did not know about the conduct that spawned a federal probe into payoffs and other shenanigans involving training center money until the government informed the union. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, "Professor: Feds suggest UAW/Fiat Chrysler scandal was wider conspiracy," 13 June 2018 Democrats argued in court that could lead to shenanigans. Jim Morrill And Anne Blythe, charlotteobserver, "How this GOP candidate could help Democrats keep control of the NC Supreme Court," 4 July 2018 Many New Yorkers are all too familiar with St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans. Laurel Graeber, New York Times, "7 Things to Do With Your Kids in NYC This Weekend," 15 Mar. 2018 Speaking of Iowa, there’s some shenanigans going on with Governor Kim Reynolds and that state’s Medicaid program. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "Desperation Is Settling in for Pennsylvania Republicans," 22 Feb. 2018 The Coolidges had received a series of threatening letters, so the president was likely concerned for his son’s safety—but perhaps cloaked beneath the veneer of security was Coolidge’s underlying exasperation with his son’s continued shenanigans. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "For His Patriotic Birthday, Five Facts About Calvin Coolidge," 2 July 2018 At one end supermarket tabloids published stories and grainy pictures of extraterrestrial landings and improbable celebrity shenanigans. Amar Bhidé, WSJ, "Skepticism Beats Snopes as an Antidote to Fake News," 8 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shenanigan.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shenanigan

1854, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shenanigan

origin unknown

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for shenanigan

The first known use of shenanigan was in 1854

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More from Merriam-Webster on shenanigan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shenanigan

Nglish: Translation of shenanigan for Spanish Speakers

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