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

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 Jimmy Patronis, also a part of that pro-gun cabal in the House in 2011, is now chief financial officer. Sun Sentinel Editorial Board,, "A judge provides much-needed sanity on Florida gun laws | Editorial," 30 July 2019 The cabal changes—globalists, Lizard People, the media, the Vatican, whatevs—but the song remains the same. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "Operation Avalanche, the only good conspiracy—fake the Moon landing, get promoted," 20 July 2019 But senior civil servants and diplomats like Mr. Darroch have been depicted by pro-Brexit campaigners as a cabal in the heart of government trying to thwart Britain’s exit from the EU. Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "U.K. Envoy’s Exit Feeds British Worries of Isolation," 11 July 2019 Empress Catherine II of Russia was no stranger to conspiracies and cabals orchestrated by her enemies, but in the early 1770s, one mysterious woman’s claim to the throne would expose deep insecurities underlying Catherine’s reign. National Geographic, "This 'pretender princess' tried to steal Catherine the Great's throne," 6 Aug. 2019 Prosecuting members of a purported Satanic, child-eating cabal by way of the inspector general’s office has become a key cog for belief in Qanon. Ben Collins, NBC News, "Local FBI field office warns of 'conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists'," 1 Aug. 2019 The Electoral College, like the Senate, was designed to stop the country from being ruled by a cabal of Washington Post and New York Times columnists. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Our Democracy Is Not in Crisis," 23 July 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

13 Sep 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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recurring in steady succession

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