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

McGinnis, a chemical engineer and entrepreneur, isn't hawking snake oil, however: His elixir is gasoline. Robert F. Service, Science | AAAS, "This former playwright aims to turn solar and wind power into gasoline," 3 July 2019 As the options increase, how to separate the quality stuff from what’s really just snake oil? Laura Neilson, Vogue, "All the Best CBD Products Are Now Gathered in One Place," 23 Jan. 2019 Around the same era, in England and America, snake oil became a widespread cure for common ailments. Elisa Lipsky-karasz, WSJ, "Gwyneth Paltrow Wants to Convert You," 4 Dec. 2018 This quasi-legal industry remains unregulated and potentially full of snake oil salesmen. Angela Chen, The Verge, "This cannabis-derived drug just got approved, but that won’t make it easier to get edibles," 3 Oct. 2018 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

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

chiefly US, informal + disapproving : 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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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with snake oil

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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