ca·​bal | \ kə-ˈbäl How to pronounce cabal (audio) , -ˈbal How to pronounce cabal (audio) \

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

Social consensus can protect against a cabal seeking to reverse or censor transactions. Joe Lubin, Quartz, "Facebook’s cryptocurrency is a centralized wolf in decentralized sheep’s clothing," 21 June 2019 Building their case for a potentially devastating cabal, Messrs. Meltzer and Mensch examine a wide range of evidence. Stephen Brumwell, WSJ, "‘The First Conspiracy’ Review: The Skulduggery of King George," 9 Jan. 2019 Yes, there are plutonium orbs, a shadowy cabal of anarchists threatening nuclear Armageddon, but—spoiler—Cruise stops them! Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "5 Reasons You Have to See Mission: Impossible—Fallout (Really!)," 26 July 2018 On Monday, a day before the critical vote on Mrs. May’s Brexit deal with the EU, amendments flooded in as cabals of lawmakers try to steer Brexit their way. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Brexit Turns U.K. Parliament on Its Head," 14 Jan. 2019 Icke is best known for arguing that the world is run by a secret cabal of alien lizard people, many of whom are Jewish. Constance Grady, Vox, "The Alice Walker anti-Semitism controversy, explained," 20 Dec. 2018 There is a saying in Russian that the Kremlin has many towers, meaning that various bureaucratic cabals and government agencies hold differing and sometimes competing interests. Neil Macfarquhar, New York Times, "Russian Trolls Were Sloppy, but Indictment Still ‘Points at the Kremlin’," 17 Feb. 2018 Swamp drain begins, military seizes TRILLIONS in cabal assets, returning them to the people. David Weigel,, "The conspiracy theory behind a curious Roseanne Barr tweet, explained," 31 Mar. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. Martin Finucane,, "How far back does concern about foreign influence in the US go? All the way back," 14 June 2019 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

Noun and Verb

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

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Statistics for cabal

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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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

formal + disapproving : 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

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a small bunch of flowers

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