boon·​dog·​gle | \ˈbün-ˌdä-gəl, -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, -​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

Democrats also passed an energy bill that wasted tens of billions on green boondoggles. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Growth Is on the Ballot," 17 Oct. 2018 Amazon now faces a policy and PR boondoggle it may not have expected after forcing hundreds of cities and regions to compete for the chance to become a home to its second headquarters. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Amazon HQ2: all of the news about its controversial search for a new headquarters," 7 Sep. 2017 California's biggest boondoggle just broke the bank. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "California bullet train project on track to blow through billions of more dollars," 31 Aug. 2018 When all is said and done, that wisecrack may be the best thing to come out of this boondoggle. Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, "Politics / Transportation Another whopper from Rahm: express service to O'Hare that won’t cost the public," 18 June 2018 Gateway has all the usual trappings of a rail-infrastructure boondoggle. Ted Budd, WSJ, "The Northeast’s Costly Tunnel Vision," 7 Mar. 2018 Here a foursome of male retirees drink coffee and chitchat with unemployed job seekers like Rusty, recently ejected from Wall Street and now on a personal mission that may also be a financial boondoggle. Michelle Wildgen, New York Times, "The Turbulent Life of the Small-Town Librarian," 13 Apr. 2018 Wapato was built in 2004 to accommodate 500 minimum-security inmates but never used – a $58 million boondoggle that cost Multnomah County $300,000 a year to maintain. Molly Harbarger,, "A new idea for Wapato Jail from Washington: Use Wapato as a jail," 6 June 2018 The biggest boondoggle in California history is now under the microscope of the U.S. Department of Transportation as costs continue to climb on a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project that routinely misses deadlines and blows through budgets. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "Feds could be coming for California's over-budget bullet train," 1 May 2018

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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Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for boondoggle

The first known use of boondoggle was in 1928

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English Language Learners Definition of boondoggle

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

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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