pork barrel


Definition of pork barrel

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

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 Moreover, trucking relies on the public provision of highways, a perpetual pork barrel boondoggle which wastes $18 billion annually. Roslyn Layton, Forbes, 28 June 2022 And he was best known for bringing federal projects, earmarks or pork barrel, to his state. NBC News, 20 Mar. 2022 Fawell was the chief sponsor of 23 bills that eliminated some $2 billion in pork barrel projects, his wife said. Bob Goldsborough, chicagotribune.com, 14 Nov. 2021 The infrastructure bill is a sweeping public works and jobs bill with something for everyone, the type of pork barrel measure that used to be the bread and butter of Congress. New York Times, 1 Aug. 2021 In some years, Warner has played host on his farm to a pig roast, an incongruous gesture for political figures practiced in pork barrel legislation perhaps but a productive initiative nonetheless. David M. Shribman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 22 July 2021 There’s not enough pork barrel that can be shipped to West Virginia to attempt to rent Joe Manchin’s vote on big issues. John Fund, National Review, 11 Oct. 2020 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, 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, 10 June 2019 See More

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.

First Known Use of pork barrel

1909, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of pork barrel was in 1909

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Last Updated

11 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pork barrel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pork%20barrel. Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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