Definition of snake oil in English:

snake oil


North American
  • 1[mass noun] A 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Maybe his private chemist cooked up an elixir of bathtub gin, snake oil and Smith Brothers cough drops.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1A 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’
      • ‘This sounds a whole lot like snake oil.’
      • ‘They used words like, snake oil.’
      • ‘But one-size web-based ERP is snake-oil, for us (I cofounded and run a small manufacturing business).’
      • ‘Does this mean that the "digital lasts for ever" line is mere marketing snake oil?’
      • ‘Those words are simply smothered in snake oil.’
      • ‘A New Age theory of urban development amounts to economic snake oil.’
      • ‘Actually, the white paper contained enough snake-oil to make me suspicious.’
      • ‘We ran this by several geneticists at major universities, Kiran, and they said this is snake oil.’
      • ‘Promising physical immortality is, simply put, spiritual snake oil.’
      • ‘A colorful line on a pretty graph with no points and no backup data is a clear invitation to purchase snake oil.’
      • ‘There is a lot of "snake oil" out on the market to clear green water.’
      • ‘And the reason for this is pretty obvious - because if would make it perfectly clear that they were peddling snake-oil.’
      • ‘They'll serve you much better than some snake oil product.’
      • ‘Do these UV cleaners work, or are they "snake oil?"’
      • ‘But even if you do buy what Kristof's selling, don't buy Bush's brand of snake-oil.’
      • ‘Some therapies will become mainstream but most will go the way of snake oil.’
      • ‘In fact, transplanted fetal brain cells have turned out to be, well - snake oil.’
      • ‘If mortgage securitization is snake oil, then it was snake oil that was patented and marketed by the U. S. government.’
      • ‘The new airport security rules, put in place after September 11, look and smell a whole lot like snake oil.’


snake oil