gut·​ter·​snipe ˈgə-tər-ˌsnīp How to pronounce guttersnipe (audio)
: a homeless vagabond and especially an outcast boy or girl in the streets of a city
: a person of the lowest moral or economic station
guttersnipish adjective

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"Unfurl yourselves under my banner, noble savages, illustrious guttersnipes," wrote Mark Twain sometime around 1869. Twain was among the first writers to use guttersnipe for a young hoodlum or street urchin. In doing so, he was following a trend among writers of the time to associate gutter (a low area at the side of a road) with a low station in life. Other writers in the late 19th century used guttersnipe more literally as a name for certain kinds of snipes, or birds with long thin beaks that live in wet areas. Gutter-bird was another term that was used for both birds and disreputable persons. And even snipe itself has a history as a term of opprobrium; it was used as such during William Shakespeare's day.

Examples of guttersnipe in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And looking back sadly, the United States will probably never have another halcyon period like that to squander with minimalist ambitions and guttersnipe politics about nothing. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 27 June 2022 The guttersnipes have outfoxed the plutocrats, for once. Kyle Smith, National Review, 3 Oct. 2019 They are barred from using certain language during debates including git, guttersnipe, swine and stool pigeon. Max Colchester, WSJ, 3 Jan. 2019 From the massive success of post-grunge rockers Stone Temple Pilots to commercial guttersnipe supergroup Velvet Revolver, singer Scott Weiland's expansive talent cast a long shadow. Katherine Turman, Esquire, 4 Dec. 2015 There were no sound and light shows, no teenage haute guttersnipes, no thumbing his nose at the rules. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 8 Mar. 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'guttersnipe.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1869, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of guttersnipe was circa 1869


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Cite this Entry

“Guttersnipe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

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