in cahoots

“In cahoots with” means in league with, or collaboration to nefarious ends. It’s also been used at times to mean a company or partnership.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that English got the expression from the Scots in the 1500s, with a little help from the French, more specifically, that the expression is “probably” from the French cahute, meaning a cabin or a poor hut.

Another theory is that word came to from French cohorte, or a slang form of English “cohort” in the meaning “accomplice.”

And yet another, from Jonathan Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which suggests that the word came from an American slang word “cahot” meaning pothole. That doesn’t ring true to me, but perhaps I just don’t like potholes.

The word (if it actually is the same one) reappeared as “cahoot” in early 1800s America, where the phrase “in cahoot” meant in partnership or in league with.

The OED‘s first citation comes from Chronicles of Pineville, a collection of sketches about backwoods Georgia by William T. Thompson from the early 1800s: “I wouldn’t swar he wasn’t in cahoot with the devil.”

The word “cahoot” apparently continued to be used in the singular for a couple of generations. The Oxford English Dictionary‘s first citation for the plural “cahoots” is from a manuscript diary of G. K. Wilder (1862): “Mc wished me to go in cahoots in a store.” And “cahoots” it’s been ever since.

Sometimes, being in a partnership is as claustrophobic as being confined to a small hut with no ventilation. But I like to imagine people “in cahoots” doing a little plotting and scheming towards things like practical jokes. And laughing while they do so.

  One thought on “in cahoots

  1. how9473
    November 11, 2020 at 7:23 am

    A perfect sounding word for all that it means especially “the laughing” while being in cahoots. I like the French/Scottish origin best.


    • November 11, 2020 at 7:45 am

      I don’t remember when I first heard the word “cahoots” but for some reason it makes me think of people dreaming up practical jokes, rather than anything nefarious. Perhaps that was the context when first I heard it.


  2. Leanne Taylor
    November 15, 2020 at 3:33 am

    *smirk* *giggle* *snort*

    My brother and I are quite close in age,
    and were often in cahoots as wee little fiends.

    Your blog is entertaining as well as informative!
    Some words just “sound” funny, don’t they?
    I recall when we first heard the word, “squat”.
    Repeating it made us “hoot” with laughter.

    “Cahoots! LOL

    Thank you! :-)) :-)) :-))


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