she·​nan·​i·​gan | \shə-ˈna-ni-gən \

Definition of shenanigan 

1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose

2a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct usually used in plural

b : high-spirited or mischievous activity usually used in plural

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Did You Know?

The history of shenanigan is as tricky and mischievous as its meaning. Etymologists have some theories about its origins, but no one has been able to prove them. All we can say for certain is that the earliest known use of the word in print appeared in the April 25, 1855, issue of San Francisco's Town Talk. Although the "underhanded trick" sense of the word is oldest, the most common senses in use now are "tricky or questionable practices" (as in "political shenanigans") and "high-spirited behavior" (as in "youthful shenanigans").

Examples of shenanigan in a Sentence

students engaging in youthful shenanigans on the last day of school an act of vandalism that went way beyond the usual shenanigans at summer camp

Recent Examples on the Web

This time there was no Girl, Interrupted shenanigans. Danielle C. Belton, The Root, "4 Hospitalizations, 3 Diagnoses, 2 Scared Parents and 1 Very Sad Woman," 14 May 2018 Dealing with such shenanigans is an ongoing process for NASCAR. Mike Hembree, USA TODAY, "NASCAR teams vs. inspectors: Rulebook abuse an ongoing battle," 18 Mar. 2018 Check out both vids to see Drake and Josh get into more shenanigans, just like old times. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "Josh Peck Filmed His Reunion with Drake Bell and the Brothas are Back to Their Shenanigans," 31 Aug. 2017 One big takeaway: Despite his Twitter shenanigans, CEO Elon Musk is still definitely in charge. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "This Week in the Future of Cars: It's Business Time," 10 June 2018 Police were alerted to their shenanigans at about 12:37 a.m. when a neighbor in the 1000 block of 17th Avenue reported seeing the five get out of a car on River Knoll Court, a dead end, just north of the high school athletic fields. Maureen Mertens, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Twenty minutes after teens deny toilet paper intentions to police, the same cop finds them crawling through brush to commit offense," 22 May 2018 And thank you, Juan, for putting up with all my shenanigans. Fox News, "Senate fight awaits Trump's Supreme Court pick," 10 July 2018 Barkley’s teammates also were willing to put up with his shenanigans. Scott Bordow, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns – and fans – reach silver anniversary of love affair with 1993 Western Conference champions," 16 June 2018 The head of the UAW reasserted this week that the union’s leaders did not know about the conduct that spawned a federal probe into payoffs and other shenanigans involving training center money until the government informed the union. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, "Professor: Feds suggest UAW/Fiat Chrysler scandal was wider conspiracy," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shenanigan.' 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 shenanigan

1854, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shenanigan

origin unknown

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Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for shenanigan

The first known use of shenanigan was in 1854

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More from Merriam-Webster on shenanigan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shenanigan

Nglish: Translation of shenanigan for Spanish Speakers

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something that serves to warn or remind

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