\ ˈsnif \
sniffed; sniffing; sniffs

Definition of sniff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to inhale through the nose especially for smelling sniffed at the flowers
b : to take air into the nose in short audible breaths She sniffed and wiped her nose.
2 : to show or express disdain or scorn
3 : snoop, nose sniffed around for clues

transitive verb

1a : to get the odor or scent of (something) with the nose : smell sniffed the freshly baked cookies dogs sniffing the ground
b : to inhale (something) through the nose : snort sniffing cocaine
2 : to utter contemptuously
3 : to recognize or detect (something) by or as if by smelling usually used with out sniff out trouble



Definition of sniff (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act or sound of sniffing
2 : a quantity that is sniffed

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Synonyms for sniff

Synonyms: Verb

nose, scent, smell, snuff, whiff

Synonyms: Noun

aroma, odor, redolence, scent, smell

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Examples of sniff in a Sentence


She sniffed and wiped her nose with a tissue. She put perfume on her wrist and sniffed it. The dog sniffed the carpet. He held the flower up to his nose and sniffed. “I guess you don't need my help,” she sniffed.


She said that she felt fine, but her sniffs and coughs told a different story. “I refuse to answer that question,” she said with a sniff. He wanted to avoid the slightest sniff of a scandal. There was still a sniff of hope left for the team.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Port Everglades was on lockdown for more than two hours Sunday after a bomb-sniffing dog alerted its handler to a problem on a cruise ship. Susannah Bryan,, "Bomb-sniffing dog puts Port Everglades on lockdown Sunday morning," 8 Apr. 2018 Since then, Heinz has come sniffing around Unilever, and while the U.S. suitor ultimately dropped the bid, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Marmite still decided to decamp following Brexit., "Another Corporate Headache Lands on Theresa May’s Lap," 3 Apr. 2018 Bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building, investigators said., "Jackson Middle School 7th-grader who shot himself at school has died," 21 Feb. 2018 Next: Han is working on figuring out how to turn prediction systems like her algorithms, which can be valuable tools for researchers already focused on sniffing out emerging diseases, into something more proactive, such as an early warning system. Mallory Locklear, Discover Magazine, "With Big Data and Predictive Analytics, Scientists Are Getting Smarter About Outbreaks," 8 Nov. 2018 Others sniff out chemical compounds from human remains buried 3 feet underground. Pm Editors, Popular Mechanics, "110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years," 10 Dec. 2012 For now Streetwise stays contrarian, buying into weakness and hoping that the market is wrong to sniff a global recession. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "My Lessons From the Market’s Wild December," 27 Dec. 2018 The bot was equipped with an instrument designed specifically to sniff methane, called the Tunable Laser Spectrometer of the Sample Analysis at Mars (TLS-SAM). Alessandra Potenza, The Verge, "NASA’s Curiosity rover discovers that methane on Mars changes with the seasons," 7 June 2018 There’s naloxone on hand in case a drug-sniffing dog accidentally ingests narcotics. Jillian Kay Melchior, WSJ, "Is There a Crisis at the Border?," 5 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Every wealthier program with a job opening will at least take a sniff, and someone with deep pockets could put on a full-court press. Andy Staples,, "Porter Moser Built Loyola-Chicago Into a Sensation. Will He Stick Around for the Next Step?," 27 Mar. 2018 His nose was always twitching for a sniff of cowardice or collusion. Alan Rusbridger, New York Times, "Seymour M. Hersh — the Journalist as Lone Wolf," 13 June 2018 When caretakers first led Sweety into Tricia's stall, the two greeted each other with tentative sniffs, followed soon after by nuzzling. Maria Carter, Country Living, "See The Heartwarming Friendship Between Two Blind Cows," 1 July 2015 Executives at GE Power knew Alstom well, having given it an appraising sniff two years earlier. Thomas Gryta And Ted Mann, WSJ, "GE Powered the American Century—Then It Burned Out," 14 Dec. 2018 Photo: Drew Hinshaw/The Wall Street Journal Using two different sniff methods, Cocaine combed the woods in late July, detecting spots where the snake had sat or swum into the water. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, "Nothing Unites a Divided Country Like an Escaped 18-Foot Snake in the Suburbs," 28 Aug. 2018 Check out their adorable first encounter: The tiny pig sniffs at the massive dog's snout, jumps up in his face and does a half lap around the Great Dane before nibbling at his back. Rori Kotch, Country Living, "This Miniature Pig and Great Dane Win the Award For Cutest Friendship," 16 July 2015 The opposition in Singapore has never had a sniff of power, and Vietnam and Laos have been under one-party rule since 1975. Matthew Pennington, Fox News, "Malaysia, Cambodia offer 2 Asian narratives of change at UN," 27 Sep. 2018 However, not one of those countries is present at the World Cup, and most of them didn’t even get a sniff of it. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Why the world's biggest countries fail with the World Cup," 8 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sniff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of sniff


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1767, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sniff


Middle English

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Learn More about sniff

Dictionary Entries near sniff





sniff around/round

sniff at


Statistics for sniff

Last Updated

19 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sniff

The first known use of sniff was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for sniff



English Language Learners Definition of sniff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to take air into your nose in short breaths that are loud enough to be heard
: to smell (something or someone) by putting your nose close to it and taking air in through your nose in short breaths
: to take (something, such as fumes or a drug) into your body by inhaling it through your nose in order to get intoxicated



English Language Learners Definition of sniff (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or the sound of drawing air into the nose especially in order to smell something or because you are sick or have been crying
: an expression of dislike or disapproval
: a small amount or sign of something


\ ˈsnif \
sniffed; sniffing

Kids Definition of sniff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to smell by taking short breaths sniff perfume
2 : to draw air into the nose in short breaths loud enough to be heard
3 : to say with scorn



Kids Definition of sniff (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act or sound of drawing air into the nose in short breaths (as to smell something) He took a sniff of the pie.
2 : an odor detected through the nose a sniff of sea air

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More from Merriam-Webster on sniff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sniff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sniff

Spanish Central: Translation of sniff

Nglish: Translation of sniff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sniff for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sniff

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