Cabal is most often used to denote a conspiracy, particularly one which controls an organization or government. The word entered the English language from the French cabale and ultimately comes from the Hebrew qabbalah, the medieval body of arcane and mystical Jewish teachings. The earliest use of cabal cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1616, cited in John Bullokar’s An English Expositor:

Cabal, the tradition of the Jewes doctrine of religion.

Within a few years, the word had generalized to mean any secret tradition or teaching, not just the particular Jewish tradition. David Person, in his Varieties of 1635, writes:

An insight in the Cabals and secrets of Nature.

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