snake oil


Wikipedia has an article on:


Wikimedia Commons has related media at:
Wikisource has original text related to this entry:


Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:



snake oil ‎(uncountable)

  1. A traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain.
  2. A type of 19th-century patent medicine sold in the United States that claimed to contain snake fat, supposedly a Native American remedy for various ailments.
  3. (idiomatic) A fraudulent, ineffective potion or nostrum; panacea.
  4. (idiomatic) Any product with exaggerated marketing but questionable or unverifiable quality.


snake oil ‎(third-person singular simple present snake oils, present participle snake oiling, simple past and past participle snake oiled)

  1. (slang) To dupe or con.
    • 1995, Nancy Owen Nelson (ed.), Private Voices, Public Lives:
      And this is particularly so for many of our women students who have been hustled and snake-oiled to deny the validity of their intellects.
    • 2013, Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge, Vintage 2014, p. 23:
      Before she had a chance to deal with her hangover, he was on the phone snake-oiling her into the first of what would be many ill-fated fraud cases.
Read in another language