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

Choose your choice The Assassin’s Creed games are principally founded on the notion that recorded history has just enough gaps to fit in the existence of an unknown, international cabal of elite assassins. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Assassin’s Creed Odyssey," 4 Oct. 2018 At the same time, HHS turns its blind eye to the real scandal, the astronomical increases in the prices of generic drugs, driven by the unholy cabal of insurance companies and pharmacy-benefit managers. WSJ, "Some Causes and Cures for High Drug Prices," 31 Oct. 2018 Putin’s initial figure suggested a huge chunk of her money came from a small cabal of financiers. Richard Lardner, The Seattle Times, "Fact check: Trump, Putin and their Hall of Mirrors," 17 July 2018 The über-go-getter female cabal of Silicon Valley women working in tech and VC worshipped some women and despised others—often the more feminine ones overshadowed by their husbands. Alexandra Wolfe, Marie Claire, "Inside the Androgynous Sexual Wasteland of Silicon Valley," 19 Dec. 2016 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

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

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cabal

The first known use of cabal was in 1614

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More Definitions for cabal



English Language Learners Definition of cabal

: a small group of people who work together secretly

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More from Merriam-Webster on cabal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cabal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cabal

Spanish Central: Translation of cabal

Nglish: Translation of cabal for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cabal

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).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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