Share this entry

Share this page

hanky-panky

Line breaks: hanky-panky
Pronunciation: /haŋkɪˈpaŋki
 
/

Definition of hanky-panky in English:

noun

[mass noun] informal , humorous
Behaviour, in particular sexual or legally dubious behaviour, considered improper but not seriously so: 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.
Synonyms
extramarital sex, infidelity, unfaithfulness, adultery, liaison, affair, fling
informal monkey business, shenanigans, carryings-on, carry-on, fooling around, playing around
British informal jiggery-pokery, monkey tricks
North American informal monkeyshines
formal fornication
archaic knavery

Origin

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

More
  • 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, wanky, Yankee

Definition of hanky-panky in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day cumbersome
Pronunciation: ˈkəmbərsəm
adjective
large or heavy and therefore difficult to carry…