han·​ky-pan·​ky ˌhaŋ-kē-ˈpaŋ-kē How to pronounce hanky-panky (audio)
informal : sexual activity especially when regarded as somewhat improper
We thought there was some hanky-panky going on between them.
… if there was hanky-panky in the office, it was entirely discreet …Jonathan Galassi
Today's Judeo-Christian culture has not shed this propensity to cheat. (If there weren't any hanky-panky, we wouldn't need the seventh commandment.)Daniel Engber
informal : questionable or underhanded activity
warned them not to try any hanky-panky
financial/political hanky-panky

Examples of hanky-panky in a Sentence

had to resort to a certain amount of hanky-panky to sneak away from the house without his dog seeing him
Recent Examples on the Web No hanky-panky, no name calling, no twisting of truths, no bull. Patrick Wallis, Baltimore Sun, 24 May 2024 Our inescapable conclusion is that the target of this pitch is being snowed by an acquaintance hoping to climb out of the friend zone for a bout of hanky-panky before moving on. Tom Zoellner, SPIN, 21 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hanky-panky.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1841, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of hanky-panky was in 1841

Dictionary Entries Near hanky-panky

Cite this Entry

“Hanky-panky.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hanky-panky. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: questionable or sneaky activity : trickery
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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