[ hawrn-swog-uhl ]
/ ˈhɔrnˌswɒg əl /
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verb (used with object), horn·swog·gled, horn·swog·gling.Slang.
to swindle, cheat, hoodwink, or hoax.
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Origin of hornswoggle

1815–25 origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


Where does hornswoggle come from?

Hornswoggle, as noted in our definition above, means “to swindle, cheat, or hoax.” But, it would be cheating for us to say we know where hornswoggle comes from exactly. Its earliest known appearance so far is in the U.S. around 1815–25.

Is hornswoggle supposed to sound like some hullabaloo from some sort of trumpet? Did a hog get all washed up? Well, sometimes nonsense words are just that—nonsense. Ultimately, hornswoggle is probably just a fanciful, funny formation.

Many more amusing Americanisms await in our slideshow “These Wacky Words Originated In The USA.”

Did you know … ?

Hornswoggle has an equally silly-sounding synonym in bamboozle, and other handy synonyms for “cheating” include dupe, swindle, and fool.

Looking for more synonyms? (Not that we hope you have any practical need for ‘em!) Steal your way over to Thesaurus.com and check out the many alternatives for cheat.

How to use hornswoggle in a sentence

  • The fellow I've been having so much fun with—the Nervy Matt that tried to hornswoggle me with my own photograph.

    Cappy Ricks|Peter B. Kyne

British Dictionary definitions for hornswoggle

/ (ˈhɔːnˌswɒɡəl) /

(tr) slang to cheat or trick; bamboozle

Word Origin for hornswoggle

C19: of unknown origin
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