snake oil


Definition of snake oil

1 : any of various substances or mixtures sold (as by a traveling medicine show) as medicine usually without regard to their medical worth or properties

Examples of snake oil in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web No coach will check all the boxes, but somewhere out there is that blend of youth with competence, ambition without paranoia, charm without snake oil, that can make UConn football better. Dom Amore,, 14 Sep. 2021 The California Medical Board was established in the 1870s to help the public distinguish between trustworthy, educated physicians and snake oil salesmen. Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2021 Accessories are where the vast majority of audio snake oil shows up. Parker Hall, Wired, 5 June 2021 The only parties that think ads are targeted and relevant are the advertisers and the ad tech companies that sold them their snake oil ad targeting capabilities. Dr. Augustine Fou, Forbes, 27 May 2021 During the 1918 flu pandemic, snake oil salesmen did a booming business. Kiona N. Smith, Forbes, 1 Mar. 2021 Ian shows me a small bottle of lime tonol — a snake oil of its time, thought to cure everything from weak ankles to epilepsy and yawning — with a Star of David clearly stamped on it. New York Times, 26 Feb. 2021 For skeptics, this is a combination of two kinds of snake oil. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 14 Dec. 2020 Anderson’s America is one of snake oil, sinister influences and men with an all-corrupting will to power. Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of snake oil

1917, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for snake oil

Time Traveler

The first known use of snake oil was in 1917

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Dictionary Entries Near snake oil


snake oil

snake palm

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Statistics for snake oil

Last Updated

26 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Snake oil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for snake oil

snake oil


English Language Learners Definition of snake oil

: something that is sold as medicine but that is not really useful or helpful in any way

snake oil


Medical Definition of snake oil

: 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


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