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boondoggle

[ boon-dog-uhl, -daw-guhl ]
/ ˈbunˌdɒg əl, -ˌdɔ gəl /
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See synonyms for: boondoggle / boondoggled / boondoggling on Thesaurus.com

noun

a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.
work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.

verb (used with object), boon·dog·gled, boon·dog·gling.

to deceive or attempt to deceive: to boondoggle investors into a low-interest scheme.

verb (used without object), boon·dog·gled, boon·dog·gling.

to do work of little or no practical value merely to keep or look busy.

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Origin of boondoggle

1930–35, Americanism; said to have been coined by R. H. Link, American scoutmaster, as name for def. 1
boondoggler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does boondoggle mean?

A boondoggle is a government project considered to have little purpose or value and to be a waste of taxpayer money.

More generally, it can refer to any work done simply to look busy. These senses of the word are based on its original, literal meaning: a decorative but otherwise useless cord of braided leather or plastic (or another such handicraft) stereotypically made by Scouts.

Boondoggle can also be used as a verb meaning to deceive. All senses of the word are primarily used in the U.S. and Canada.

Example: Critics called the mayor’s proposal for a tech hub nothing more than a boondoggle to please his political donors.

Where does boondoggle come from?

The first records of the word boondoggle come from the 1930s. The term is often attributed to American scoutmaster R.H. Link. The literal sense of the word refers to the kind of braided cords often made by Scouts, which are typically attached to things like handkerchiefs and keychains as a decoration.

Today, boondoggle is commonly associated with unnecessary government spending, especially by the U.S. federal government. A project is typically called a boondoggle by those who think it’s unnecessary and wasteful. Boondoggles are often blamed on politicians who add such expenditures into budgets as a favor to their cronies, or as a way of getting a favor in return. Boondoggle is always used in a negative way to criticize such projects as worthless or pointless, and especially as a waste of money and resources.

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What are some other forms related to boondoggle?

  • boondoggler (noun)

What are some synonyms for boondoggle?

What are some words that often get used in discussing boondoggle?

 

How is boondoggle used in real life?

Boondoggle is primarily an American term used in the context of politics. It’s always used negatively—unless it literally refers to the little braided trinkets made by Scouts.

 

 

Try using boondoggle!

Which of the following words is LEAST likely to describe a boondoggle?

A. wasteful
B. pointless
C. efficient
D. useless

British Dictionary definitions for boondoggle

boondoggle
/ (ˈbuːnˌdɒɡəl) informal, mainly US and Canadian /

verb

(intr) to do futile and unnecessary work

noun

a futile and unnecessary project or work
boondoggler, noun
C20: said to have been coined by R. H. Link, American scoutmaster
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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