Definition of snake oil in English:

snake oil

noun

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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’

Pronunciation

snake oil

/ˈsneɪk ˌɔɪl//ˈsnāk ˌoil/