Gain access to thousands of additional definitions and advanced search features—ad free! JOIN NOW
: any of various substances or mixtures sold (as by a traveling medicine show) as medicine usually without regard to their medical worth or properties
: poppycock, bunkum
Recent Examples on the Web
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'snake oil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
1917, in the meaning defined at sense 1
Keep scrolling for more
Share snake oil
Resources for snake oil
Time Traveler for snake oil
See more words from the same year
More Definitions for snake oil
: something that is sold as medicine but that is not really useful or helpful in any way
See the full definition for snake oil in the English Language Learners Dictionary
: any of various substances or mixtures sold (as by a traveling medicine show) as medicine usually without having had the claims of their medical worth or properties substantiated by scientific tests
More from Merriam-Webster on snake oil
See words that rhyme with snake oil
Comments on snake oil
What made you want to look up snake oil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
a private place of worship
Get Word of the Day daily email!
Difficult Vocab Quiz
Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?
Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.
It is a word, though.
CNN reporter questions President.
Ariana Grande slams ex-fiancé.
Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!
Words from the week of 11/16/2018
This is just to say / Don't confuse them
What exactly is the 'it' being sufficed?
Taking a usage peeve to task
And is one way more correct than the others?
The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary.
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
The awkward case of 'his or her'
Another round of challenging vocab!
(Secret October WOTD Quiz)
A game of winding words.