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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We need good medicine, not more jokey formulas for snake oil.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘And the reason for this is pretty obvious - because if would make it perfectly clear that they were peddling snake-oil.’
      • ‘Actually, the white paper contained enough snake-oil to make me suspicious.’
      • ‘This sounds a whole lot like snake oil.’
      • ‘Does this mean that the "digital lasts for ever" line is mere marketing snake oil?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If mortgage securitization is snake oil, then it was snake oil that was patented and marketed by the U. S. government.’
      • ‘Promising physical immortality is, simply put, spiritual snake oil.’
      • ‘Some therapies will become mainstream but most will go the way of snake oil.’
      • ‘The new airport security rules, put in place after September 11, look and smell a whole lot like snake oil.’
      • ‘There is a lot of "snake oil" out on the market to clear green water.’
      • ‘We ran this by several geneticists at major universities, Kiran, and they said this is snake oil.’
      • ‘A New Age theory of urban development amounts to economic snake oil.’
      • ‘Those words are simply smothered in snake oil.’
      • ‘A colorful line on a pretty graph with no points and no backup data is a clear invitation to purchase snake oil.’
      • ‘In fact, transplanted fetal brain cells have turned out to be, well - snake oil.’
      • ‘But one-size web-based ERP is snake-oil, for us (I cofounded and run a small manufacturing business).’
      • ‘They'll serve you much better than some snake oil product.’
      • ‘They used words like, snake oil.’


snake oil