- a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.
- work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
- a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.
As a verb, it can also be used simply to mean “to deceive”.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, boondoggle was “popularized during the New Deal as a contemptuous word for make-work projects for the unemployed”.
World Wide Words explains that boondoggle was popularized through a New York Times article titled “$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play … Boon Doggles Made”.
And the American Heritage Dictionary says the word was coined by an American scoutmaster named Robert H. Link – whoever that is.