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

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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

Noun 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 Obama turned to political and economic veterans, handing the task of fixing the economy to a cabal of financial titans, many of whom played a central role in destroying it. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Do Democrats Have a Plan for the Next Recession?," 16 Aug. 2019 In one impromptu press conference, the auto magnate floated a crackpot theory that the Civil War had been caused by a Jewish cabal. Danny Heitman, The Christian Science Monitor, "Henry Ford and Thomas Edison steered Americans toward a love of road trips," 28 July 2019 One lesson here is that what looks on the outside like a cabal or a mob often looks on the inside like a community. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Katie Roiphe Is Right About Twitter Feminism and Wrong About #MeToo," 16 Feb. 2018 The real deep state is not some cabal meeting in a secret Pentagon cavern. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Deep State of Dementia," 19 Aug. 2019 Though there were many members to this billionaire cabal, the Koch Brothers, in addition to being the most infamous, were particularly critical in modern conservatism’s rise to power. Adam Eichen, The New Republic, "After 48 Years, Democrats Still Haven’t Gotten the Memo," 23 July 2019 From 1998 to 2003 Zimbabwe’s participation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s second war cost US$1 million a day, creating a military cabal used to getting money fast. David B. Moore, Quartz Africa, "The many failures and betrayals of Robert Mugabe to his people," 7 Sep. 2019 Its influence has been so powerful, yet undefined, that it is often cited by conspiracy theorists as being part of a cabal to institute some sort of global government. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Leslie H. Gelb, journalist, think-tank leader and foreign policy expert, dies at 82," 31 Aug. 2019 In Germany, despite having fought for the country in World War I, Jews were suddenly treated like a cabal of traitorous outsiders. Rabbi David Wolpe, Time, "Even People Who Like Some of Trump's Policies on Israel Should Condemn His Dangerous 'Disloyalty' Comment," 21 Aug. 2019 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

25 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for cabal

The first known use of cabal was in 1614

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More Definitions for cabal


How to pronounce cabal (audio) How to pronounce cabal (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cabal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cabal

Spanish Central: Translation of cabal

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

Comments on cabal

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to speed up the process or progress of

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