boon·​dog·​gle ˈbün-ˌdä-gəl How to pronounce boondoggle (audio)
: a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide (see slide entry 2 sense 4b), hatband, or ornament
: a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft
The project is a complete boondoggle—over budget, behind schedule, and unnecessary.
boondoggle intransitive verb
boondoggler noun

Did you know?

Boondoggle Started With the Scouts

When boondoggle popped up in the early 1900s, 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 boondoggle was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree, and it's been with us ever since. Over time, it developed the additional sense describing a wasteful or impractical project.

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 Those two bills, taken together, represent the largest boondoggle in the history of public finance. Neal B. Freeman, National Review, 6 May 2024 Explore our new section Opponents say the tunnel is a boondoggle that would further imperil the delta’s fragile ecosystem, which has already been eroded by heavy water withdrawals for agriculture and cities. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 29 Feb. 2024 Who remembers Poseidon, the $1.5 billion desalination boondoggle Orange County was almost stuck with until the Coastal Commission thankfully put a stake in its heart last year? Vern Nelson, Orange County Register, 22 Feb. 2024 What happened with Nick Saban, the Dolphins and Drew Brees? Choosing Culpepper over Brees turned into one of the greatest personnel boondoggles in NFL history. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, 10 Jan. 2024 The best evidence of that is the fact that the private owners of the track are willing to give it away as part of this boondoggle, saddling local government with another money pit — worse than its catastrophic investment in the downtown Hilton Hotel. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 25 Jan. 2024 The bullying tactics being used to sell this boondoggle are underhanded and meretricious. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak decided enough was enough and announced that only the London-to-Birmingham segment of his country’s rail boondoggle would be built. Nr Editors, National Review, 20 Oct. 2023 The judges were not somebody’s nephew on a boondoggle but were, for the most part, their countries’ best legal minds. Foreign Affairs, 20 Oct. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'boondoggle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


coined by Robert H. Link †1957 American scoutmaster

First Known Use

1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of boondoggle was in 1928


Dictionary Entries Near boondoggle

Cite this Entry

“Boondoggle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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