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 While BoJack is on good terms with Todd, who is up to his old shenanigans at the wedding, his relationship with Diane has irrevocably changed — and both BoJack and Diane know it. Kaitlin Reilly,, "The Bittersweet Ending Of BoJack Horseman Is Just Right," 31 Jan. 2020 A season three would at least confirm that Joe some capacity and potentially up to his old stalking shenanigans. Katherine J Igoe, Marie Claire, "Will Netflix's 'You' Be Back for Season 3?," 11 Dec. 2019 Former Astros have been whispering about Houston’s shenanigans for some time; the A’s certainly had been hearing about it. Susan Slusser,, "A’s Mailbag: Impact of Astros’ sign-stealing scandal? Mike Fiers fallout?," 22 Jan. 2020 But the many new rules will at a minimum limit the shenanigans, and a best create fair maps representing the communities the lawmakers serve. Rich Exner, cleveland, "Gerrymandering 101 for 2020 and beyond in Ohio: Capitol Letter," 30 Dec. 2019 And of course, there have been complaints about radio shenanigans—use of multiple frequencies to bypass the cutoff, home teams fiddling with the opponent’s signal, deliberately malfunctioning headsets., "A History of Football in 100 Objects," 28 Aug. 2019 Last Man Standing’s Fox debut is followed by The Cool Kids (Friday, 8:30 pm), which gathers a lot of great actors (David Alan Grier! Martin Mull! Vicki Lawrence! Leslie Jordan!) only to strand them in a bland story about retirement home shenanigans. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "4 TV shows to check out, from The Good Place to Lil Rel Howery’s new show," 27 Sep. 2018 Another investigation of whether the Patriots violated NFL policy (again) when videographers connected to the team’s website filmed the Bengals’ sideline, similar to the 2002 Spygate shenanigans. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Why this past decade of NFL scandals is the worst stretch ever for the league," 20 Dec. 2019 There are no major Avengers blockbusters (thanks to Thanos' shenanigans last year), and Star Wars is a taking a cinematic hiatus. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "The 2020 Sci-Fi Film Guide," 4 Dec. 2019

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

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shenanigan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 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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