Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.
  • noun A braided leather cord worn as a decoration especially by Boy Scouts.
  • noun A cord of braided leather, fabric, or plastic strips made by a child as a project to keep busy.
  • intransitive verb To waste time or money on a boondoggle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • verb a braided cord made by hand by young scouts, used for various purposes, such as a hat cord or a key chain.
  • verb a useless, wasteful, or impractical project; -- especially one authorized by a government agency as a favor to partisans, to employ unemployed people, or in return for corrupt payments.
  • verb to do useless, wasteful, or trivial work.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A braided ring to hold a neckerchief, particularly in scouting; a woggle.
  • noun US A waste of time and/or money; a pointless activity.
  • verb intransitive To waste time on a pointless activity.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb do useless, wasteful, or trivial work
  • noun work of little or no value done merely to look busy

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Coined by Robert H. Link (died 1957), American scoutmaster.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Coined by Robert H. Link, American scout, 1929; alternatively “boon doggle”. Compare woggle of similar sense, attested in same period.

Examples

  • They missed a few but did better avoiding wasteful projects than FDR and the New Dealers in the era when the term boondoggle was coined.

    THE PROMISE

  • They missed a few but did better avoiding wasteful projects than FDR and the New Dealers in the era when the term boondoggle was coined.

    THE PROMISE

  • They missed a few but did better avoiding wasteful projects than FDR and the New Dealers in the era when the term boondoggle was coined.

    THE PROMISE

  • The term boondoggle, in the sense of a project that wastes time and money, first appeared during the Great Depression in the 1930s, referring to the millions of jobs given to unemployed men and women to try to get the economy moving again, as part of the New Deal.

    Schumer on "those little tiny, yes, porky amendments": "The American people really don't care."

  • This boondoggle is a travesty to the American people.

    A fitting memorial for Sen. Ted Kennedy. | RedState

  • On Thursday, Florida Rep. John L. Mica R said that he sought to broker a deal that would have allowed private investors into the Florida rail proposal as a hedge against overruns but that Scott could not be persuaded to support what he called a "boondoggle."

    Dollars from Florida's high-speed rail project up for grabs

  • The governor says the rail line, which he calls a "boondoggle," wouldn't have as high of a ridership as currently projected-citing a study from the Reason Foundation.

    The Economist: Correspondent's diary

  • If that wasn't enough, there were Doug Ford's ill-considered remarks about Waterfront Toronto, which he described as a "boondoggle."

    Thestar.com - Home Page

  • Walker, a Republican, vowed during the campaign to stop the train which he called a boondoggle and waste of taxpayer money.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • This boondoggle is too power grabbing and too expensive to provide coverage for a small percentage of the public.

    Obama challenges reform detractors to explain themselves

Comments

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  • "To the cowboy it meant the making of saddle trappings out of odds and ends of leather, and they boondoggled when there was nothing else to do on the ranch." (Chicago Tribune 4 Oct. 1935, cited in OED)

    February 7, 2007

  • This word is inextricably linked in my mind with the word hornswoggle.

    December 20, 2007

  • I thought boondoggle's were those plastic weaved keychains we made at camp in the 80's.

    August 22, 2008

  • Before it became a bad word, “boondoggle�? was an innocent, humble craft. It was the Boy Scouts of America who claimed credit for coining the word, to refer to the plaited leather lanyards that they made and wore around their necks.

    That all changed on April 3, 1935, at a hearing in New York City on how New Deal relief money was being spent. A Brooklyn crafts teacher reluctantly testified that he was paid to show the jobless how to make “boon doggles.�? The outcry was swift. “$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play,�? trumpeted a front-page headline the next day in The New York Times. “ ‘Boon Doggles’ Made.�?

    The New York Times, Boondoggle. One’s Name for Another’s Necessity., by Michael Cooper, August 17, 2009

    August 18, 2009