Definition of pork barrel
: government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits; also : pork 2
pork barrel was our Word of the Day on 10/08/2014. Hear the podcast!
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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."
First Known Use of pork barrel
PORK BARREL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of pork barrel for English Language Learners
: 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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