Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Cahoots

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is cahoots. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Cahoots is an informal word that is usually used in the phrase “in cahoots” to describe a partnership or alliance for making or implementing secret plans.

// Though five years apart in age, the two siblings are often in cahoots when it comes to making mischief.

CAHOOTS in Context

“When a mild-mannered ad man … is mistaken for a secret agent and finds himself in the crosshairs of a dangerous spy, suspense is a given. Add a romantic entanglement with the epically gorgeous Eva Marie Saint, who might or might not be in cahoots with the spies, and you’ve got [director Alfred] Hitchcock at his tongue-in-cheek best.” — Amy Glynn, Paste Magazine, 16 Nov. 2022

Did You Know?

Cahoots is used almost exclusively in the phrase “in cahoots,” which means “in an alliance or partnership.” In most contexts, cahoots describes the conspiring activity of people up to no good. (There’s also the rare expression “go cahoots,” meaning “to enter into a partnership,” as in “they went cahoots on a new restaurant.”) The word’s origins are obscure, but it may come from the French word cahute, meaning “cabin” or “hut,” suggesting the notion of people hidden away working together in secret. Cahute, in turn, is a modification of the word hutte and is believed to have been influenced by cabane, another word for hut and cabin. If you’re wondering about the singular cahoot (it pops up now and again), it has historically been used in the same way as the plural form but has an even more informal ring to it, as in “I reckon that varmint is in cahoot with the devil himself.”

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