\ ˈsnif How to pronounce sniff (audio) \
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

The police presence in Portland on Saturday included bomb-sniffing dogs and weapons-screening checkpoints. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "Heavy police presence as Patriot Prayer group rallies in Portland, Oregon," 5 Aug. 2018 The Portland Police Bureau said Friday that protesters should expect to see a significant police presence including bomb-sniffing dogs and checkpoints where weapon screenings will occur. Fox News, "Portland braces itself for violent clashes between right-wing and antifa protesters," 4 Aug. 2018 Since then, Mexican authorities have strengthened security around the ferry as well as the ferries that run between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, including adding metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs. New York Times, "Despite Violence, Tourism Is Strong in Mexican Resort Areas," 27 Apr. 2018 The sisters each took their turn sniffing the samples, then turned their attention to the size of the bottle. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kylie Jenner's First Perfume Is Shaped Like Giant Lips," 1 Apr. 2019 Country Living editors, with the help of a few boldfaced-name vetters, have sniffed out the grrreatest everything for your animals, from toys and treats to a gadget that practically guarantees good pet photos. Country Living Staff, Country Living, "The 2018 Country Living Pet Awards," 26 Dec. 2018 An odor analysis laboratory has confirmed what the public sniffed out a few months ago: Milorganite fertilizer has a different smell. Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milorganite mystery: Homegrown fertilizer's new scent has officials sleuthing to identify source of change," 30 Apr. 2018 Mutts Canine Cantina, a combination dog park/beer-and-wine garden that has been around for a few years in Uptown Dallas, has sniffed out a Fort Worth location as well. Robert Philpot, star-telegram, "This Clearfork news will make a lot of tails wag | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 1 Mar. 2018 Sundry underworld types scratch and sniff in pursuit, but their harebrained motives — like the money itself — are mere tools with which to paint a pitch-black picture of Chinese economic frustration set against the allure of Western opportunity. Jeannette Catsoulis, miamiherald, "In ‘Have a Nice Day,’ a follow-the-money tale in China | Miami Herald," 14 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Admittedly, narrow preview builds mean devs could still be fooling us with some smoke and mirrors—this is E3, land of unfinished games—but all of the below demos presented well enough at E3 to pass our sniff test for hype and BS. Sam Machkovech And Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019," 14 June 2019 This season is about giving everything a sniff test before possibly tossing it out. Omar Kelly,, "Kelly: There’s very little that’s appetizing about this Dolphins team | Commentary," 5 June 2019 Please take a seat in the 2019 VW Jetta GLI 35th Anniversary Edition and have a sniff. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI: The Quietly Legendary Sedan Turns 35," 2 May 2019 Cocomero is a California rosé that has a scratch-n-sniff label, which actually smells like one of the key flavors featured inside the bottle. Olivia Harrison,, "This Rosé Bottle Has A Scratch-N-Sniff Label," 2 July 2018 Mauro Icardi – one of Europe’s most lethal finishers – was handed only a sniff on goal when rolled in one on one with Donnarumma before rolling it through the legs of the Milan keeper., "AC Milan 0-0 Inter: Nightmare Night for Mauro Icardi Leaves Inter Kicking Themselves in Derby Draw," 4 Apr. 2018 But scratch-and-sniff technology has been used to far weirder ends over the years. Nestor Ramos,, "If Postal Service can roll out scratch-and-sniff stamps, maybe the MBTA should try it, too," 5 June 2018 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

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

25 Jun 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 How to pronounce sniff (audio) \
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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characterized by aphorism

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