phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by ESC on July 02, 2003

In Reply to: Hanky-panky posted by Helen on July 01, 2003

: Does anyone know the origins of the expression Hankypanky?

Here are some theories:

HANKY-PANKY - "goes back more than a hundred years and originated in the jargon of fairs and carnivals. It's a variation on the much older 'hocuspocus' - a term used by shysters and magicians while performing tricks. Since there was always something underhanded about such activities, 'hanky-panky' has come to mean double-dealing or devious trickery." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

A second reference says: "A synonym for trickery, 'hanky-panky' may have been coined, with the help of reduplication, from the magician's handkerchief, or 'hanky,' under which so many things have mysteriously appeared and disappeared through clever sleight of hand. Probably related to 'hocus pocus,' it is first recorded in 'Punch' ." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

And a third: "n. 1841, British slang; possibly a variant of 'hoky-pokey' deception or fraud ; altered from hocus-pocus." From "The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).

See Hanky-panky - meaning and origin