shenanigan

noun
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

This definition, together with other procedural shenanigans explained by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, would allow New Jersey Democrats to draw a map where they would be practically guaranteed to win a supermajority in statehouse elections. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "New Jersey Democrats have a new gerrymandering plan. It is indefensible — and national Democrats need to stop it.," 14 Dec. 2018 Why is this particular switcheroo so gratifying when so many of the show’s other shenanigans have been maddening? Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The Walking Dead just pulled its best switcheroo in years," 29 Oct. 2018 In the view of many, Bernie should have been the party’s nominee except for shenanigans within that party. WSJ, "Many Democrats Don’t Mind ‘Socialist’ Tag," 28 Mar. 2019 With WrestleMania just weeks away, the goofy Gronkowski could crash the show again and get mixed up in more shenanigans. Dan Gelston, The Seattle Times, "Gronk unleashed: Gronkowski sets course for retirement fun," 25 Mar. 2019 Foley said that starting with the Progressive Era at the turn of the 20th century, speed was seen as a deterrent to fraud — the faster the votes were counted, the less time there was for shenanigans. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Why it takes so long to get election night results," 6 Nov. 2018 Totally understandable, because there's plenty of other fun shenanigans happening during the episode. Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, "10 Details in "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale" You Might Have Missed," 14 Dec. 2018 The fictional news anchor is back on CBS for her first season of sitcom shenanigans since 1998. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The rise, fall, and unlikely return of Murphy Brown, explained," 27 Sep. 2018 The shenanigans in North Carolina probably won’t change California’s mind. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Vote Fraud, in the Flesh," 22 Feb. 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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Last Updated

25 Apr 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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