\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

This was an unplugged, untimed, unmanaged experience, complete with stops to sniff around and soak in the surroundings. Michael Easter, Outside Online, "What Happens When You Scrap Your Fitness Plan," 14 May 2018 Some wage and pension cuts have been reversed, firms are creating jobs at a neat clip, foreign investors are eagerly sniffing around and the public finances are in rude health; the government hopes to balance the books next year. The Economist, "Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal," 12 Apr. 2018 Hudson said Amira was likely sniffing around the fence that backs up to the woods and a creek in Sardis Plantation neighborhood. Myah Ward, charlotteobserver, "Copperhead bites 9-year-old pit bull in Matthews," 5 July 2018 Anyone can listen to what a coach tells them and consciously enact it, but opponents will sniff out overly deliberate play from miles away. Rob Mahoney,, "Breakaway: Clint Capela Stakes His Claim," 18 May 2018 As the name suggests, GasBuddy helps sniff out deals on gasoline and diesel in the U.S. and Canada. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, "Seriously, save money on gas, hotels and shopping with these 8 apps," 26 June 2018 Either these men had heard about my new situation or something about me, some post-apocalyptic air, had led them to sniff it out. Joseph O’neill, The New Yorker, "The First World," 21 June 2018 When a marcher curls up in pain, Mr. Patyal gives him a bottle of cleaning alcohol to sniff. Mujib Mashal, New York Times, "A Grass-Roots Afghan Peace Movement Grows, Step by Step," 15 June 2018 My biggest takeaway from the day is how unbelievably incredible these professionals are to even sniff par on a layout that difficult. Daniel Rapaport,, "FORE Questions: Young Americans Are Dominating Professional Golf," 28 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 And koalas are fanatically choosy about their leafy greens, favoring the ones high in nutrition and water content and pausing to bury their adorable Yoda-like faces in the leaves for a big sniff before nibbling. Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, "Koala genome shows how the adorable marsupial lives on eucalyptus leaves," 2 July 2018 Jorge Sampaoli's men had dominated possession from the first whistle, yet Iceland managed to keep them on their toes, looking keen to score with every sniff., "Argentina 1-1 Iceland: Messi and Co Stunned by Steely Icelandic Side in World Cup Opener," 16 June 2018 But having to struggle so hard even for a sniff at sectional hardware is a sacrifice every player is happy to make. Chris Melchiorre,, "St. Augustine's David Burr found lacrosse by accident," 17 May 2018 Herrera, meanwhile, never got a sniff on the top-prospects list with the Texas Rangers before being left exposed in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. Bob Brookover,, "Want Manny Machado on the Phillies? Don't get attached to prospects | Bob Brookover," 6 July 2018 Yet even assuming that the Dunes group passes the conflict-of-interest sniff test, its plan to tear down the house, which has been closed since the Evanston Art Center moved out in 2015, makes little sense. Blair Kamin,, "Evanston plan to demolish Harley Clarke mansion: Public vision or hidden agendas?," 13 July 2018 The athlete wandered up and gave a perfunctory sniff of hello to a stranger, then wandered away again. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Meet Spitty, the Whippet Who Holds Five World Records," 22 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

12 Nov 2018

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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Comments on sniff

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by force of circumstances

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