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 With cropping, image stacking, and other AI shenanigans, Oppo says the phone can pull off a 60X zoom (of dubious image quality). Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Oppo’s flagship Find X2 Pro announced with 65W charging, Snapdragon 865," 6 Mar. 2020 Unfortunately, these type of shenanigans are becoming the norm around Houston's freeways. Sonia Ramirez, Houston Chronicle, "Video: Houston freeways becoming the new backdrop for dangerous stunts," 25 Feb. 2020 News reports this week are raising a different issue: hackers are breaking into users' Ring accounts, which can also be connected to indoor Ring cameras, to take over the devices and get up to all sorts of invasive shenanigans. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Why Ring Doorbells Perfectly Exemplify the IoT Security Crisis," 12 Dec. 2019 Now local courts are having to grapple with First Amendment and Second Amendment implications while trying to discern whether troubling comments are just crass shenanigans or isolated outbursts, or justifiable reasons to take a person’s guns. Mike Baker, New York Times, "He Wrote ‘Kill All Women,’ but a Judge Returned His Guns," 18 Nov. 2019 These costumed superheroes, led by the MC Bat Commander, are on the road with PPL MVR, promising a night of non-stop entertainment, a cross-generational thrown-down for the ages marking their 25th anniversary of theatrical shenanigans. Ed Masley, azcentral, "Best concerts in Phoenix for November: Post Malone, Cher, Summer Walker, Brockhampton," 1 Nov. 2019 The event is open to all car clubs and is for show only - no racing, burnouts or other shenanigans. Houston Chronicle, "Feb. 26-March 14: Heritage Fest, Firefighter Challenge coming up in northwest Houston," 24 Feb. 2020 Then there's Natasha Parker, a bona fide Actual Adult, who has had it up to here all season long with Peter's wishy-washy shenanigans. Martha Sorren,, "This Is Who Probably Has Her Bags Packed In That New Bachelor Promo," 3 Feb. 2020 Biden wants to raise the global minimum tax on U.S. firms to 21% and raise $200 billion from penalties on countries seen as facilitating tax shenanigans. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Election 2020 Puts Business Taxes on the Line," 29 Jan. 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

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shenanigan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on shenanigan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shenanigan

Nglish: Translation of shenanigan for Spanish Speakers

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