A junto or council of intriguers. One of the Ministries of
Charles II. was called a cabal (1670), because the initial letters of
its members formed this acrostic: Clifford, Ashley, B
uckingham, Arlington, and
Lauderdale. This accident may have popularised the word, but,
without doubt, we borrowed it from the French cabale, “an
intriguing faction,” and Hebrew cabala, “secret knowledge.” A
junto is merely an assembly; Spanish, junta, a council. (
See Notarica; Tammany Ring .)
“In dark cabals and mighty juntos met.”
“These ministers were emphatically called the Cabal, and they soon
made the appellation so infamous that it has never since ... been used
except as a term of reproach.” —Macaulay: England,
chap. ii. p. 165.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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