Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Etymology 1[edit]

Unknown. First attested in 1862 with the meaning “temporary shelter”. The modern sense of “matter of concern” is from 1869; “vehicle” is from 1871–2.[1][2]

In the sense of “temporary shelter”, it was perhaps brought by US Civil War Confederate enlistees from Louisiana, from French chabane (hut, cabin), a dialectal form of French cabane (a covered hut, lodge, cabin) (see cabin, cabana). Alternatively, that sense may be from or have been influenced by shebeen (cabin where unlicensed liquor is sold and drunk), attested pre-1800, chiefly in Ireland and Scotland, from Irish síbín (illicit whiskey), a diminutive of síob (a drift).

The vehicle sense is perhaps from the unrelated French char-à-banc (bus-like wagon with many seats). The sense of “matter of concern” is hypothetically from either, or onomatopoeia.

(The term was not, as is sometimes claimed, commonly used by prisoners at Andersonville in reference to their shelters. According to the US National Park Service, "While shebang was a term sometimes used to describe prisoner shelters at Andersonville, its usage was probably quite limited. In some 1,200 pages of postwar testimony by prisoners held at Andersonville, the word appears four times, and is virtually absent from most prisoner diaries and contemporary memoirs." The terms burrow, dugout, hut, lean-to, shanty, shelter and tent are far more common.)

Alternative forms[edit]


shebang (plural shebangs)

  1. (informal, US, archaic) A lean-to or temporary shelter.
    • 1862, Walt Whitman, Journal, December:
      Their shebang enclosures of bushes.
    • 1889, Bret Harte, The Heritage of Dedlow Marsh
      They say that old pirate, Kingfisher Culpepper, had a stock of the real thing from Robertson County laid in his shebang on the Marsh just before he died.
  2. (informal, US, archaic) A place or building; a store, saloon, or brothel.
  3. (informal) Any matter of present concern; thing; or business; most commonly in the phrase "the whole shebang".
    Synonym: jimbang
  4. (informal, obsolete) A vehicle.[3]
    • 1871, December 14, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), “Roughing It” (lecture), printed in Fred W. Lorch, “Mark Twain’s Lecture from Roughing it”, in American Literature, volume 22, number 3 (November 1950), pages 305:
      [] So they got into the empty omnibus and sat down. Colonel Jack says: “...What is the name of this.” Colonel Jim told him it was a barouche. After a while he poked his head out in front and said to the driver, “I say, Johnny, this suits me. We want this shebang all day. Let the horses go.”
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ Take our Word
  2. 2.0 2.1 whole shebang, the”,, Dave Wilton, Tuesday, February 20, 2007.
  3. ^ Take our Word
  • Shebang. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang By Jonathon Green, Sterling Pub. Co., Inc. 2006, p. 1261

Etymology 2[edit]

hash +‎ bang or sharp +‎ bang, after Etymology 1.


shebang (plural shebangs)

  1. (computing) The character string "#!" used at the beginning of a computer file to indicate which interpreter can process the commands in the file, chiefly used in Unix and related operating systems.