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

Here's to another chapter of Zoey Johnson's college shenanigans. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "9 TV Shows and Movies to Watch to Kick Off 2019," 30 Dec. 2018 The best part of the trailer, though, involves Underwood threatening to leave the show and then literally hoisting himself over a fence to get away from all of the Bachelor shenanigans. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "Colton Underwood's 'The Bachelor' Trailer Involves Shirtlessnes and Tearful Escapes," 20 Nov. 2018 Many commentators have written off the possible encounter as teenage shenanigans. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "Three Teenage Girls Penned a Moving Letter of Support for Christine Blasey Ford," 21 Sep. 2018 Michael Clark and Gucci are joining forces, in a way, when the British dancer and choreographer performs at the Italian house’s hub, its cultural epicenter imagined as a place for all sorts of happenings and shenanigans. Mark Holgate, Vogue, "Michael Clark, the British Dancer Who Brought Punk to Classical Ballet, Will Perform at the Gucci Hub in Milan," 19 Sep. 2018 The shenanigans include a variety of mistaken identities, contrivances, duels and what not, ending in a Turkish masquerade. Mark Swed,, "A little operatic help for newspapers: ‘La Gazzetta’ couldn't be better timed," 30 June 2018 Who is going to buy oil on Christmas eve with these shenanigans going on, with stocks going down, Trump blaming the Fed and [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin screwing up by calling bankers. Neanda Salvaterra, WSJ, "U.S. Oil Prices Fall to 18-Month Low as Wall Street Tumbles," 24 Dec. 2018 Journalists are the real target of their digital shenanigans. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How a new class of “digital martyrs” are manipulating social networks," 18 Sep. 2018 Case in point: While vacationing in Bali with her family for the last week, Chrissy has taken a break from calling out Thomas Markle on his sucky shenanigans and live-tweeting an earthquake to start a lowkey beauty series called Headband of the Day. Krystyna Chávez, Marie Claire, "Chrissy Teigen's Headband of The Day Is the Best Thing on Instagram," 9 Aug. 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

14 Feb 2019

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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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