ca·bal | \kə-ˈbäl, -ˈbal \

Definition of cabal 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government) also : a group engaged in such schemes

2 : club, group a cabal of artists


caballed; caballing

Definition of cabal (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to unite in or form a cabal

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Synonyms for cabal

Synonyms: Noun

conspiracy, crew, gang, Mafia, mob, ring, syndicate

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Choose the Right Synonym for cabal


plot, intrigue, machination, conspiracy, cabal mean a plan secretly devised to accomplish an evil or treacherous end. plot implies careful foresight in planning a complex scheme. an assassination plot intrigue suggests secret underhanded maneuvering in an atmosphere of duplicity. backstairs intrigue machination implies a contriving of annoyances, injuries, or evils by indirect means. the machinations of a party boss conspiracy implies a secret agreement among several people usually involving treason or great treachery. a conspiracy to fix prices cabal typically applies to political intrigue involving persons of some eminence. a cabal among powerful senators

Did You Know?


In A Child's History of England, Charles Dickens associates the word cabal with a group of five ministers in the government of England's King Charles II. The initial letters of the names or titles of those men (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale) spell cabal, and Dickens dubbed them the "Cabal Ministry." These five men were widely regarded as invidious, secretive plotters and their activities may have encouraged English speakers to associate cabal with high-level government intrigue. But their names are not the source of the word cabal, which was in use decades before Charles II ascended the throne. The term can be traced back through French to cabbala, the Medieval Latin name for the Kabbalah, a traditional system of esoteric Jewish mysticism.

Examples of cabal in a Sentence


a cabal plotting to overthrow the government a conspiracy theory about the existence of an international cabal devoted to world domination

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Eve's hunches prove to be dangerously correct, as she's drawn further into the world of Villanelle, a glamorous but psychopathic killer based in Paris who performs hits for a clandestine Russian cabal. Author: Hank Stuever, Anchorage Daily News, "Summer is the right time for those TV shows you’ve heard about, but never got around to watching," 14 June 2018 The senator’s attempt to foment a conspiracy theory about a cabal of left-wing subversives in the FBI had fallen apart faster than a Jenga tower. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Ron Johnson Is Very Bad at McCarthyism," 7 Feb. 2018 American courts have been moving to the right since the 1970s, but that’s because of broad political push by the Republican Party, not just a small cabal of Catholics. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Why all the anti-Catholic conspiracy-mongering?," 9 July 2018 The unifying figure is Dollar, who plays a vampire queen named Sophie in a cabal of bickering bloodsuckers. Noel Murray,, "Review: Mashup of cameos and mismatched footage doesn't fly in weird vampire flick 'Sunset Society'," 5 July 2018 The fact that a woman of Meghan’s background can become a royal duchess makes the House of Windsor a lottery rather than a cabal. Daisy Goodwin, Time, "How Meghan Markle Is Giving the Royal Family the Shake-Up It Needs," 17 May 2018 Replacing their childhood comedy idols with women was a kind of narrative murder, committed by a cabal of Hollywood moguls and humorless feminists. Amanda Hess, New York Times, "The Trouble With Hollywood’s Gender Flips," 12 June 2018 In Trump’s telling, however, the informant was a spy sent by Obama and a cabal inside his Justice Department and the intelligence community who were bent on stopping his candidacy., "Trump pulls conspiracy theories from the fringes to the Oval Office," 29 May 2018 Mueller’s investigation has dragged on forever and petered out; the real scandal that has come to light is what is being done to Trump by a liberal cabal within the FBI. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Expects Justice Department to Serve Him Instead of Justice," 28 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Powell is drawing encouragement from the significant losses of candidates who, like Burton, are backed by the Empower Texans cabal attempting to take control of the Texas Legislature. Richard Greene, star-telegram, "Republicans think they have November in the bag. Do they? | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cabal.' 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 cabal


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1678, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cabal


French cabale cabala, intrigue, cabal, from Medieval Latin cabbala cabala, from Late Hebrew qabbālāh, literally, received (lore)


see cabal entry 1

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Statistics for cabal

Last Updated

27 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for cabal

The first known use of cabal was in 1614

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English Language Learners Definition of cabal

: a small group of people who work together secretly

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Comments on cabal

What made you want to look up cabal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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