pork barrel


Definition of pork barrel

: government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits also : pork sense 2

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Did You Know?

You might expect that the original pork barrels were barrels for storing pork-and you're right. In the early 19th century, that's exactly what pork barrel meant. But the term was also used figuratively to mean "a supply of money" or "one's livelihood" (a farmer, after all, could readily turn pork into cash). When 20th-century legislators doled out appropriations that benefited their home districts, someone apparently made an association between the profit a farmer got from a barrel of pork and the benefits derived from certain state and federal projects. By 1909, pork barrel was being used as a noun naming such government appropriations, and today the term is usually used attributively in constructions such as "pork barrel spending" or "a pork barrel project."

Examples of pork barrel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But hey, don't worry, the Democrats have already put this into their $45 billion infrastructure pork barrel so that we taxpayers get to pay for it. chicagotribune.com, "Talk of the County: Civil War Days talk is political correctness run amok," 17 June 2019 The pork barrel bonanza courtesy of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s massive construction package that lawmakers approved last weekend is signature away from becoming law. Chicago Tribune Staff, chicagotribune.com, "Daywatch: Pritzker's next 'think big' initiative, Illinois-Missouri border an abortion rights front line and other things to know to start your day," 10 June 2019 The Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper estimated that the consequences of Temer’s pork barrel and pledges could cost Brazil almost $10 billion. Anna Jean Kaiser, Washington Post, "Brazil’s President Temer avoids a new corruption trial," 25 Oct. 2017 The lower house of Congress approved a bill that had passed the Senate and will take funds from pork barrel appropriations and government payments to buy TV and radio time for parties. Anthony Boadle, The Christian Science Monitor, "Brazil tackles political bribes with a campaign fund sourced by taxpayers," 6 Oct. 2017 The pork barrel projects were inserted in some cases by Gov. Scott Walker and others by GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP lawmakers keep some earmarks in budget, rein in controversial final motion," 7 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pork barrel.' 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 pork barrel

1909, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for pork barrel

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The first known use of pork barrel was in 1909

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Cite this Entry

“Pork barrel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pork%20barrel. Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for pork barrel

pork barrel


English Language Learners Definition of pork barrel

US, informal + disapproving : government projects that benefit people in a particular part of the country and that are done in order to help the political careers of elected officials

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