Posted by Masakim on September 26, 2003

In Reply to: Shenanigans posted by ESC on September 26, 2003

: : Can anyone throw some light on the origin of the above? Someone has suggested it is a derivation of arabic and means 'to play the fox'.

: Here are a few more theories:

: SHENANIGAN - "n. 1855, of uncertain origin. Spanish 'chanada' (a shortened form of 'charranada') trick or deceit, is a possible source, or less likely, German peddler's argo 'Schenigelei' work, craft, or the German slang verb 'schinaglen' to toil." From The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).

Here are a few more theories:

It seems to have originated in California at about the time of the Gold Rush, though it was first recorded in print [April 25 issue of San Francisco's _Town Talk_] only in 1855. ... The word looks Irish, and there was no shortage of Irishmen in the California diggings, so it's plausible to suggest the Irish word _sionnachuighm_ as the source, meaning 'I play tricks', which is pronounced roughly as 'shinnuckeem'. Others argue it comes from an East Anglian dialect word _nannicking_ for playing the fool. Yet others guess at a link with the Spanish word _chanada_ for a trick or deceit, which is another half-way plausible source, considering California's history. Yet another theory was put forward in 1948 in _American Speech_ for an origin in German _schinnage_l for a nail that holds the rim to the wheel, which produced the German slang terms _schinageln_, to work, and _Schenigelei_, a trick.
From "World Wide Words" (Dec 18, 1999)