Definitions

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

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • v. a braided cord made by hand by young scouts, used for various purposes, such as a hat cord or a key chain.
  • v. 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.
  • v. to do useless, wasteful, or trivial work.

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

  • v. do useless, wasteful, or trivial work
  • n. work of little or no value done merely to look busy

Etymologies

Coined by Robert H. Link (died 1957), American scoutmaster.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Coined by Robert H. Link, American scout, 1929; alternatively “boon doggle”. Compare woggle of similar sense, attested in same period. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • 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

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

    August 22, 2008

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

    December 20, 2007

  • "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