she·​nan·​i·​gan | \ shə-ˈna-ni-gən How to pronounce shenanigan (audio) \

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 Bit of a stretch, maybe, how quickly Amy (America Ferrera) ditches her cushy California executive gig for one last shenanigan with her old co-workers. Darren Franich,, "The lovely Superstore series finale found the silver lining in a dark Cloud 9: Review," 26 Mar. 2021 This shenanigan gets activated when enough states — representing over 270 electoral votes — become parties to the Compact. Jack Fowler, National Review, "The Two-Pronged Assault on American Democracy," 12 Mar. 2021 Food sources are particularly slim this time of year, which can result in these types of shenanigans. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Women Hide as Bear Ransacks Gatlinburg Rental Cabin, Steals Candy, Chips, Beer," 13 May 2020 That’s how the trailer sets up the rowdy shenanigans in this quintessential spring break film, about two friends (David Knell and Perry Lang) who visit Fort Lauderdale for a spring break bacchanal. Erik Piepenburg, New York Times, "Spriiiing Breeeak, at Home," 19 Mar. 2020 If one of the questions the season 3 finale left you with was whether or not the show will return with more shenanigans, rest easy. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "Westworld Season 4 Is Happening. Here's Everything We Know So Far," 4 May 2020 Why the shenanigans for such a problematic prospect? Eric Branch,, "How 49ers bent their rules to draft slow Frank Gore, a future Hall of Famer," 21 Apr. 2020 The social media site maintains it’s trying to clean up thedisinformation and shenanigans, but questionable schemes run rampant and influence peddlers often hide their identities. Jeremy B. Merrill, Quartz, "Help Quartz track political influence on Facebook with this browser extension," 16 Apr. 2020 Brews Brothers is heavy on puerile shenanigans, many if not most based on bodily fluids and injecting those fluids and miscellaneous body parts into the brewing process. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Brews Brothers': TV Review," 9 Apr. 2020

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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The first known use of shenanigan was in 1854

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Last Updated

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shenanigan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shenanigan

Nglish: Translation of shenanigan for Spanish Speakers

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