horn·​swog·​gle ˈhȯrn-ˌswä-gəl How to pronounce hornswoggle (audio)
hornswoggled; hornswoggling ˈhȯrn-ˌswä-g(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce hornswoggle (audio) ; hornswoggles

transitive verb

: to trick or deceive (someone) : bamboozle, hoax
… trying to avoid getting hornswoggled by advertising claims …Jennifer Rude Klett
often used with into or out of
By the end of the call, Santillo had allegedly hornswoggled Olson into parting with her life savings …Gary Craig
If you want to know what hell can really do in the way of furies, look for the chap who has been hornswoggled into taking a long and unnecessary bicycle ride in the dark without a lamp.P. G. Wodehouse
He also saw his mother get hornswoggled out of $500—seven weeks' salary, the family's entire savings—by a slick traveling vacuum salesman.Kim Lachance Shandrow

Did you know?

Hornswoggle is a slang word of some considerable mystery, at least where its etymology is concerned. The word appears to have originated in the southern United States in the early 19th century. The earliest known written record comes from an 1829 issue of The Virginia Literary Magazine in its glossary of Americanisms. The magazine states that hornswoggle came from Kentucky, and its oddness matches nicely with other 19th-century Americanisms, such as sockdolager, absquatulate, callithump, slumgullion, and skedaddle. While the exact point at which hornswoggle entered our language, and the way in which it was formed, may remain unknown, it is a charming addition to our language, joining bamboozle and honeyfuggle as colorful ways to say "to deceive."

Examples of hornswoggle in a Sentence

I think we've been hornswoggled by that carnival barker.

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1877, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hornswoggle was in 1877


Dictionary Entries Near hornswoggle

Cite this Entry

“Hornswoggle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hornswoggle. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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