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

Keep scrolling for more

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

The shenanigans in North Carolina probably won’t change California’s mind. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Vote Fraud, in the Flesh," 22 Feb. 2019 Phoenix will deal with Jean Grey’s cosmic dark side while hopefully avoiding the shortcomings that doomed X-Men: The Last Stand (a film that no longer exists in canon thanks to some time-travel shenanigans). Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "The 2019 Sci-Fi Film Guide," 3 Jan. 2019 Yes, my cat is driving me crazy with his pee-slapping shenanigans. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "How Much Litter Box Do You Really Get for $500?," 23 Jan. 2019 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, latimes.com, "A little operatic help for newspapers: ‘La Gazzetta’ couldn't be better timed," 30 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of shenanigan

1854, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shenanigan

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shenanigan

Share shenanigan

Listen to Our Podcast about shenanigan

Statistics for shenanigan

Last Updated

14 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shenanigan

The first known use of shenanigan was in 1854

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on shenanigan

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shenanigan

Nglish: Translation of shenanigan for Spanish Speakers

Comments on shenanigan

What made you want to look up shenanigan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!