A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue, usually unbeknown to persons outside their group. The use of this term usually carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence. The term is frequently used in conspiracy theories.
The term cabal derives from Cabala (a word that has numerous spelling variations), the Jewish mystical interpretation of the Hebrew scripture. In Hebrew it means "reception" or "tradition", denoting the sod (secret) level of Jewish exegesis. In European culture (Christian Cabala, Hermetic Qabalah) it became associated with occult doctrine or a secret.
There is a theory that the term took on its present meaning from a group of ministers ("Cabal ministry") of King Charles II of England (Sir Thomas Clifford, Lord Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Ashley, and Lord Lauderdale), whose initial letters coincidentally spelled CABAL, and who were the signatories of the Secret Treaty of Dover that allied England to France in a prospective war against the Netherlands. The theory that the word originated as an acronym from the names of the group of ministers is a folk etymology, although the coincidence was noted at the time and could possibly have popularized its use. The group came to prominence after the fall of Charles' first Chief Minister, Lord Clarendon, in 1667. The Cabal was later called by Lord Macauley "the first germ of the present system of government by a Cabinet".