Definition of snake oil in English:

snake oil


mass nounNorth American
  • 1A substance with no real medicinal value sold as a remedy for all diseases.

    ‘some kelp products are snake oil, but the good ones promote plant growth’
    as modifier ‘a snake oil salesman’
    • ‘The Prince of Wales employed the technique most beloved of champions of alternative medicine: to exploit a health scare in order to make extravagant claims for the latest brand of snake oil.’
    • ‘Maybe his private chemist cooked up an elixir of bathtub gin, snake oil and Smith Brothers cough drops.’
    • ‘We need good medicine, not more jokey formulas for snake oil.’
    • ‘Ever since, unwary Americans have spent untold billions on contemporary versions of snake oil, some of which, like ephedra, have turned out to have few if any benefits and to pose real dangers.’
    • ‘Dr Moriarty said that although there were benefits in using some alternative medications, there was often an element of someone trying to pass off snake oil at the customer's expense.’
    1. 1.1 A product, policy, etc. of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem.
      ‘the new tax plan was denounced as snake oil’
      • ‘A New Age theory of urban development amounts to economic snake oil.’
      • ‘Some therapies will become mainstream but most will go the way of snake oil.’
      • ‘Does this mean that the "digital lasts for ever" line is mere marketing snake oil?’
      • ‘This sounds a whole lot like snake oil.’
      • ‘But one-size web-based ERP is snake-oil, for us (I cofounded and run a small manufacturing business).’
      • ‘They used words like, snake oil.’
      • ‘And the reason for this is pretty obvious - because if would make it perfectly clear that they were peddling snake-oil.’
      • ‘There is a lot of "snake oil" out on the market to clear green water.’
      • ‘A colorful line on a pretty graph with no points and no backup data is a clear invitation to purchase snake oil.’
      • ‘Do these UV cleaners work, or are they "snake oil?"’
      • ‘The new airport security rules, put in place after September 11, look and smell a whole lot like snake oil.’
      • ‘Those words are simply smothered in snake oil.’
      • ‘Actually, the white paper contained enough snake-oil to make me suspicious.’
      • ‘If mortgage securitization is snake oil, then it was snake oil that was patented and marketed by the U. S. government.’
      • ‘But even if you do buy what Kristof's selling, don't buy Bush's brand of snake-oil.’
      • ‘In fact, transplanted fetal brain cells have turned out to be, well - snake oil.’
      • ‘Promising physical immortality is, simply put, spiritual snake oil.’
      • ‘We ran this by several geneticists at major universities, Kiran, and they said this is snake oil.’
      • ‘They'll serve you much better than some snake oil product.’


snake oil