from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. Slang One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A shrewd person not guided by principles, especially a politician.
Perhaps alteration of snallygaster, a mythical beast said to prey on poultry and children, perhaps from Pennsylvania Dutch schnelle geeschter : Middle High German snēl, quick (from Old High German) + Middle High German geist, spirit (from Old High German).(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
19th-century American English. Possibly from snallygaster, a mythical beast that preys on poultry and children, possibly from Pennsylvania German schnelle geeschter, from German schnell, quick + geist, spirit. (Wiktionary)