One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.
[Perhaps alteration of snallygaster, a mythical beast said to prey on poultry and children, perhaps from Pennsylvania Dutch schnelle geeschter : Middle High German snēl, quick (from Old High German) + Middle High German geist, spirit (from Old High German).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.