Continuing the discussion from The Godmakers:

Okay, this is a neat word, because you’ve probably heard a version of it, in hanky-panky - Wiktionary

hanky-panky ( uncountable )

  1. Mischievous behaviour, dishonest or shady activity.

I think there was some hanky-panky with the last election.

  1. Amorous behaviour, smooching, making out, necking, sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, also if illicit.
  2. A debaucherous act; a sexual act that is considered inappropriate.

Here’s the neat part!


Possibly a corruption of the Romani expression hakk’ni panki (“great trick”, “big con” and hence “shady dealings”).[1]

The citation pointed to Hokkani boro - Wikipedia

Hokkani boro , also called hakk’ni panki , is a term in the Romani language for “the great trick” or a con artist’s scam. Hokkani boro is often practiced to gain a client’s trust and then his or her money. The term is also known as " hokkeny bāro" .

It refers to any of several methods used to bilk someone of their money, and may be the origin of the term’s use in the English language to mean shady dealings, trickery, etc.[1]

The wiki article goes on to describe “gypsy” spells as grifts, thus lending themselves to both the words “hanky panky” and “hocus pocus”!

This is interesting from an etymological standpoint, though I doubt we’ll gain much insight from a 1874 book entitled English Gipsies and Their language:grimacing: