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snaf·​fle ˈsna-fəl How to pronounce snaffle (audio)
: a simple usually jointed bit for a bridle


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snaffled; snaffling ˈsna-f(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce snaffle (audio)

transitive verb

: to obtain especially by devious or irregular means

Did you know?

The origins of snaffle are shrouded in mystery. What we know of its story begins in the 16th century. At that time, snaffle existed as both a noun referring to a simple bit for a horse's bridle and a verb meaning "to fit or equip with a snaffle" or "to restrain or check with or as if with a snaffle." The noun could be from an old German word for "mouth," snavel, but the connection has not been confirmed. The "obtain" meaning of the verb appeared in the early 18th century, and its origins are similarly elusive. Not so mysterious is what happened next to the verb: it developed a meaning of "to steal or rob," at least in British dialects.

Examples of snaffle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Yet this creates an opportunity for others to snaffle the best brains repelled by chauvinism, to lure the most enterprising migrants, and once again to become lands of opportunity. The Economist, 16 Nov. 2019 The All Blacks lost ground and Ardie Savea turned around, sprinted back to the ruck, shrugged off a South African trying to clean him out, and snaffled the ball for a turnover. San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Oct. 2019 Some 210 billion euros ($238 billion) in new company debt was snaffled up by investors between January and June, 21% higher than the same period last year. Washington Post, 2 July 2019 So too is the manner in which Chinese visitors have been vilified in the region for snaffling prawns at buffets, barging into queues and misbehaving on planes. The Economist, 12 Apr. 2018 Alan Pardew's side meanwhile were just outside the drop zone, and keen to snaffle a result at their neighbourhood rivals., 29 Jan. 2018 The young American rallied to put together a remarkable final few holes, carding three birdies and one eagle in the process, to snaffle the claret jug for the first time. CNN, 26 Dec. 2017 Shaqiri aimed a tame, left-footed shot at the Chelsea goal, and Blues stopper Thibaut Courtois was more than a match for the weak strike, snaffling up the effort with ease., 23 Sep. 2017 Dozens of schlock horror movies have banked on the terror of being snaffled up by the toothy saurians, but the reptilian ambush predators of Olduvai Gorge actually did paleontologists a valuable service. Brian Switek, Smithsonian, 30 Jan. 2017 See More

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

Word History



origin unknown


origin unknown

First Known Use


1533, in the meaning defined above


1724, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of snaffle was in 1533


Dictionary Entries Near snaffle

Cite this Entry

“Snaffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

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