Definition of snake oil in US English:

snake oil


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

    • ‘Maybe his private chemist cooked up an elixir of bathtub gin, snake oil and Smith Brothers cough drops.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’


snake oil

/ˈsneɪk ˌɔɪl//ˈsnāk ˌoil/