Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Boondoggle

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is boondoggle. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

boondoggle is a wasteful or impractical project or activity that usually involves public money or labor. Boondoggle is also a word for a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament.

// Critics say the dam is a complete boondoggle—over budget, behind schedule, and unnecessary.


“Courtney Astolfi reports the cost of the renovation plan for the center, formerly known as the Medical Mart, has drawn deep skepticism from county residents who oppose sinking more money into what many view as a boondoggleof a building.” — Cliff Pinckard,, 14 Sep. 2022

Did You Know?

When boondoggle popped up in the early 1900s, lots of people tried to explain where the word came from. One theory traced it to an Ozarkian word for “gadget,” while another related it to the Tagalog word that gave us boondocks. Another hypothesis suggested that boondoggle came from the name of leather toys Daniel Boone supposedly made for his dog. But the only theory that is supported by evidence is much simpler. In the 1920s, Robert Link, a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, apparently coined the word to name the braided leather cords made and worn by scouts. The word came to prominence when such a boondoggle was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree, and it’s been with us ever since. Over time, it developed the additional sense describing a wasteful or impractical project.

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