Definition of hanky-panky in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌhaNGkēˈpaNGkē/


informal, humorous
Behavior, in particular sexual or legally dubious behavior, considered improper but not seriously so: there’s no hanky-panky involved, no dating of customers suspicions of financial hanky-panky
More example sentences
  • Catching the spirit of the movie, we want to believe that you and the young cast indulged in all sorts of fantastic sexual hanky-panky.
  • How come the same people who call same-sex marriage immoral are so often up to their necks in heterosexual hanky-panky?
  • Which only goes to show that there's nothing better than a bit of sexual hanky-panky to divert the public from more serious matters.
misbehavior, naughtiness, infidelity, unfaithfulness, adultery, philandering, fooling around;
funny business, mischief, goings-on, misconduct, chicanery, dishonesty, deception, deceit, trickery, intrigue, skulduggery, subterfuge, machinations
informal monkey business, shenanigans, carryings-on, dirty weekend


Mid 19th century: perhaps an alteration of hokey-pokey.

  • People have been talking in disapproving terms of hanky-panky since the 1830s. Then it tended to mean ‘trickery’ or ‘dishonest behaviour’, whereas since the 1930s it has mainly referred to sexual indiscretions. The word is possibly an alteration of hocus-pocus, which was said by conjurors as they performed their tricks, rather like ‘abracadabra!’. This appeared in the early 17th century based on a pseudo-Latin phrase hax pax max Deus adimax used by conjurors as a magic formula. Hoax (late 18th century) may be a shortening of hocus-pocus.

Words that rhyme with hanky-panky

cranky, Frankie, hanky, lanky, manky, swanky, Yankee

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: han·ky-pan·ky

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