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

Drugs no better than snake oil — but deemed safe — could be sold to desperate patients at a profit. Adam Feuerstein, STAT, "Here come the right-to-try profiteers. The FDA is powerless to stop them," 20 June 2018 Other academics and political operatives familiar with Cambridge Analytica’s work have accused the company of selling snake oil. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "The Man Who Saw the Dangers of Cambridge Analytica Years Ago," 19 June 2018 The Federal Trade Commission also found that Oz’s producers did the scantest research on the show’s guests, which allowed modern-day snake oil salesmen to appear on air hawking bogus products. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Dr. Oz is a quack. Now Trump’s appointing him to be a health adviser.," 4 May 2018 While garnering billions of views, Jones’ videos have allowed him to sell millions of dollars worth of snake oil. Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News, "Comeuppance for conspiracy theorists," 25 May 2018 And the piecemeal comfort and convenience options that abound in the competitors can feel like a whole lot of snake oil salesmanship. Robert Duffer,, "2018 Toyota Sequoia review: What’s old is not new," 19 Mar. 2018 Some will swallow the elixir narrative and thrive, others will smell snake oil. Logan Jenkins,, "Progress: Marijuana poll elicits a shrug," 26 Apr. 2018 Science is about knowing — or at least attempting to know — the truth about our natural world without subjectivity, without snake oil salesmen, without wishing and hoping., "Calendar Letters: Readers react to Chris Erskine's column on the death of his son," 23 Mar. 2018 So even though Theranos seems to have been microfluidic snake oil, the concept that made the company seem so magical actually looks more solid. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "Theranos Didn't Nuke the Diagnostics Business," 15 Mar. 2018

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

The first known use of snake oil was in 1917

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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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a private place of worship

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