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19th-century American English. Possibly from snallygaster, a mythical beast that preys on poultry and children; possibly from Pennsylvania German schnelle geeschter, from German schnell (quick) + Geist (spirit).

Largely obsolete, it briefly resurfaced in 2009 in Britain as part of a debate over MPs' expenses.[1]


snollygoster (plural snollygosters)

  1. (slang, obsolete) A shrewd person not guided by principles, especially a politician.
    • 2009 May 19, “Tory issues apology after calling Labour rival a "c***"”, in Mirror[1], retrieved 2014-02-06:
      … I called for him to publish his expenses so that all Gloucester voters could see that he isn't a snollygoster
    • 2021 May 12, The Hon. Siobhan McDonagh MP, “Hansard Volume 712: Fairness at Work and Power in Communities”, in Hansard[2], retrieved 2021-05-13:
      …I recently discovered the word “snollygoster”… an unprincipled person in office motivated by personal rather than public gain.



  1. ^ Elizabeth Knowles (2010-10-28) How to Read a Word, OUP Oxford, →ISBN, page 65