• cahoot •
Pronunciation: kê-hut • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Collusion, a shady if not illegal collaboration.
Notes: This word is used almost exclusively in the idiom, 'to be in cahoots with someone', though the singular was used until the turn of the 20th century, 'in cahoot with someone'. It was also used more widely in the 19th century, e.g. 'to be in a cahoot relationship with someone'. I see no reason to avoid such usage today.
In Play: This is a Good Word for paranoiacs who believe in the Conspiracy Theory of Life, namely, that things go wrong because someone is out to get you: "The fast-food restaurants and textile manufacturers are in cahoots, plotting to keep the population overweight, so that we will buy clothing that requires large quantities of cloth to make." The advantage of the Conspiracy Theory of Life is that it explains everything: "All of the teams we play football against work in cahoots with equipment manufacturers to make off-center footballs that don't fly straight when our team passes and kicks!"
Word History: This Good US Word is likely an old Western mispronunciation of Spanish cohorte "cohort" (certainly not from French cahute "cabin", as many dictionaries tell us). The Latin ancestor is cohors, cohort-em "court, enclosure, tenth part of a legion (a company)". It comes from co- "with, together" + hort-, found in hortus "garden, enclosure", the base of our word horticulture. The Greek version chortos "garden" is almost identical and yard and the gard of English garden share the same PIE root. So, we borrowed cohort direfrom Latin, court from Latin via French, while garden came to us directly through our Germanic ancestors. (We worked in cahoots with a mysterious 'Ms. Max' in preparing today's Good Word.)