in Wacky Word Wednesday

Welcome back to Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the English language’s most interestingly peculiar words! Simply CSOFT is ready as always to grab a new word by the proverbial horns. This week’s feature from is just what you need when you’ve been tricked into something and are looking for the right word to vent your frustration over being deceived, swindled, bamboozled, or hoodwinked:

quo top


[hawrn-swog-uh l]


to cheat, trick, or bamboozle.

quo botHornswoggle

The etymological origins of hornswoggle are shrouded in mystery. Most, however, adhere to the view that hornswoggle is a fanciful formation (like the Wacky Word of a fortnight ago). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states that, although we don’t know the origin of hornswoggle, we do know that it belongs to a group of “fancified” words that gained popularity in the American West in the 19th century. Hornswoggle – one of the earliest – first appeared around 1829. Allegedly, these words were invented to poke fun at the more “sophisticated” East. More examples of words of this ilk are absquatulate, skedaddle, bloviate, and discombobulate.

Another etymology tries to convince us the word originated from the way that a lassoed cow would move its head back and forth to try to break free. However, with a multitude of theories vying for the title of true etymology and no way of determining which ones are right and which ones are wrong, we may never know the true origins of the word hornswoggle… We hope you can live with that.

Check out the examples below if you need some direction on how to use hornswoggle in a sentence:

  • So calls for greater oversight are welcome, particularly given how Wall Street has hornswoggled some muni issuers over the years. (New York Times Aug 5, 2012)
  • Our means are greater than we have been hornswoggled into thinking they are! (Salon Jan 6, 2011)
  • “We got hoodwinked. Led astray. Hornswoggled,” said Lee, the award-winning director, punctuating his delivery with a playful chuckle. (New York Times Jul 11, 2010)

Make sure to not let yourself be hornswoggled this week! And that concludes this week’s Wacky Word Wednesday. See you next time!

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