1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose
2 a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct — usually used in plural
b : high-spirited or mischievous activity — usually used in plural
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 uses of the word in print appeared in the mid-1800s. 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").
The CEO resigned amid accusations of financial shenanigans and dubious deals.
"And the protesters outside were just the start of the shenanigans. Inside the building, one person attended the hearing dressed in a Russian troll costume." — Kevin Roose, The New York Times, 16 Apr. 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of shenanigan referring to a devious trick: s _ r _ t _ _ e _.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP