boon·​dog·​gle | \ ˈbün-ˌdä-gəl How to pronounce boondoggle (audio) , -ˌdȯ- \

Definition of boondoggle

1 : a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide (see slide entry 2 sense 4b), hatband, or ornament
2 : a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft The project is a complete boondoggle—over budget, behind schedule, and unnecessary.

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Other Words from boondoggle

boondoggle intransitive verb
boondoggler \ ˈbün-​ˌdä-​g(ə-​)lər How to pronounce boondoggler (audio) , -​ˌdȯ-​ \ noun

Boondoggle Started With the Scouts

When boondoggle popped up in the pages of the New York Times in 1935, lots of people tried to explain where the word came from. One theory traced it to an Ozarkian word for gadget, while another related it to the Tagalog word that gave us boondocks. Another hypothesis suggested that boondoggle came from the name of leather toys Daniel Boone supposedly made for his dog. But the only theory that is supported by evidence is much simpler. In the 1920s, Robert Link, a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, apparently coined the word to name the braided leather cords made and worn by scouts. The word came to prominence when such a scout boondoggle was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree, and it's been with us ever since.

Examples of boondoggle in a Sentence

Critics say the dam is a complete boondoggle—over budget, behind schedule, and unnecessary.
Recent Examples on the Web That installation in New York was championed by Michael Bloomberg, and heavily mocked by comedians and commentators at the time, who saw it as an unsightly boondoggle in Manhattan’s most visible public space. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Christo Found Beauty in Realizing the Impossible," 1 June 2020 Several council members have called the project a boondoggle that needs more vetting. Dallas News, "Dallas City Council delays plan for soccer fields under I-345 in Deep Ellum," 27 May 2020 For a while, Charter tried to find the silver lining in the boondoggle deal by promoting Spectrum as the only place for fans to see the Dodgers’ regular season games. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, "After six years, the Dodgers’ channel will be widely available in LA. What happened?," 1 Apr. 2020 Instead, the whole affair quickly became an embarrassment, seen by many as a stupid boondoggle that enriched duplicitous consultants. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Now Is the Time to Overreact," 16 Mar. 2020 Hopefully, Roscosmos is learning from its mistakes, but the Putin era suggests that Yenisei is just another astronomic boondoggle in the making. Anatoly Zak, Popular Mechanics, "Everything You Need To Know About Russia’s (Possibly Fictional) Super Heavy Rocket," 3 Feb. 2020 But that’s always the juice that allows politicians to call one thing a boondoggle and another a boon. John Archibald |, al, "Is that how government is supposed to work?," 4 Feb. 2020 When resources are devoted to boondoggles, and companies are run by incompetent cronies, everyone ends up poorer. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "How Private Equity Buried Payless," 31 Jan. 2020 The statewide radio project, known as PA STARNet, began with a $179 million expenditure in 1996 that developed into a massive boondoggle, eventually costing the state more than $850 million. USA TODAY, "Mammoth Cave sharks, waterfall chasing, Valentine’s divorce: News from around our 50 states," 31 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'boondoggle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of boondoggle

1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for boondoggle

coined by Robert H. Link †1957 American scoutmaster

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The first known use of boondoggle was in 1928

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Last Updated

26 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Boondoggle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce boondoggle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of boondoggle

US : an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money

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