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

The third-place finisher in the mayoral race might seem an odd fit for the organization; critics painted the wealthy former Highland Park resident as a carpetbagging force for the city's old guard that leads Dallas into boondoggles. Hayat Norimine, Dallas News, "Coalition for a New Dallas hopes new political muscle will help its causes," 28 June 2019 Assignments took me to Beijing, China, London (twice) and Kapalua, Maui, still the greatest boondoggle of my career. Jeff Duncan,, "My front row seat to the Golden Age of New Orleans sports," 28 June 2019 So far, carbon capture and storage has been a boondoggle in the United States, after the high-profile failure of a $7.5 billion CCS power plant project in Mississippi and general concerns about the technology's expense. Eric Niiler, WIRED, "What to Do About CO2? Try Stuffing It Into the Gulf of Mexico," 6 June 2019 The pattern such boondoggles follow is predictable: the services insist that new weapons are needed to replace our rapidly obsolescing fleets. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "The Military-Industrial Virus," 10 June 2019 Read more The partners have come under criticism from power customers and others who say the nuclear expansion has become a boondoggle that will saddle them with higher utility rates for years. Russell Gold, WSJ, "Future of Last U.S. Nuclear Plant Remains Uncertain Amid Talks," 25 Sep. 2018 Ask any European negotiator who has tried to prune back the Common Agricultural Policy, a giant boondoggle under which France is the largest recipient of funds. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Vive le Nationalisme!," 3 Dec. 2018 Elsewhere at the cineplex this weekend, and unfortunately for Mortal Engines fans, the box office wasn’t especially kind to the Peter Jackson steampunk fantasy boondoggle. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the box office with a $35 million opening weekend," 17 Dec. 2018 The Panther Island Mitigation Bank isn’t another land boondoggle, but part of a federal system designed to restore wetlands across the United States. Washington Post, "Trump’s move to redefine water rule threatens wetlands banks," 15 June 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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boon companion







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Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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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

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

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