- Get the better of (someone) by cheating or deception.
“The large group sitting by the door was trying to hornswoggle me by leaving before paying for their meal.”
“The card trick was designed to hornswoggle an unsuspecting gambler out of their bet.”
“My niece is always trying to hornswoggle me by slipping her veggies to the dog under the table.”
American English, early 19th century
Why this word?
The word “hornswoggle” is believed to be of 19th-century American English origin, possibly descriptive of the way a bull’s head shakes to try to slip a lasso. However, the deliciously fun-to-say word didn’t escape 20th-century British author Roald Dahl. In “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Wonka turned the verb into a noun to describe the Oompa-Loompas and their home country of Loompaland: “What a terrible country it is! Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the world — hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles.”
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