snake oil


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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web With advances in pharmacology, the time had come for an agency to inform the public about the differences between medicine and snake oil. Thomas R. Insel, STAT, 12 Apr. 2023 That’s called drinking the snake oil. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 20 Mar. 2023 The snake oil salesmen are out in force this year. Peter Greene, Forbes, 5 June 2021 This snake oil salesman must be defeated!!! Emily Anderson Stern, The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 Oct. 2022 And there’s a lot of snake oil out there. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, 8 June 2022 Now that his top seed 76ers have crashed and burned out of the conference semis, repeatedly blowing large or massive leads and falling at home three times in one series, would those who defended him to the death here finally admit that Doc Rivers is the world’s greatest snake oil salesman? Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2021 Part of the agency’s mandate is to prevent drug companies from profiting by selling the equivalent of snake oil. Dan Greene, IEEE Spectrum, 21 Nov. 2018 Photograph: Astell & Kern Accessories are where the vast majority of audio snake oil shows up. Parker Hall, WIRED, 9 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'snake oil.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1917, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of snake oil was in 1917

Dictionary Entries Near snake oil

Cite this Entry

“Snake oil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jun. 2023.

Medical Definition

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
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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