\ 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

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of sniff in a Sentence

Verb 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. Noun 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 Teddy, an 11-year-old yellow lab, hasn’t been able to sniff his favorite spots for weeks, his owners told me. Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2021 But closer in, the worms could still sniff them out regardless of CO2 perception. Tess Joosse, Scientific American, 16 Aug. 2021 But the Knicks, who signed him to a five-year maximum deal that summer, wouldn’t sniff the playoffs during the length of that deal either. Broderick Turner Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 2021 In the context of the world’s other prominent national Olympic committees, however, the U.S. doesn’t sniff the vaccination-rate medal stand. Rachel Bachman, WSJ, 27 July 2021 During the Generation Adidas Cup in Dallas in 2011, Brody didn’t sniff the field the first game. Alex Vejar, The Salt Lake Tribune, 21 July 2021 Can sniff training restore COVID survivors’ sense of smell? Taylor Kate Brown, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 July 2021 Chris Wooff sniff for flaws in the Grant’s Whisky Distillery in Girvan, Scotland. Leslie Wu, Forbes, 1 June 2021 Siblings can sniff out a preferred child a mile away, so stay curious about your biases. Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Take a look and a feel and a sniff under the floor mats. Josh Max, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 Not sure the risk reward would pass the sniff test. Daniel Newman, Forbes, 16 Sep. 2021 Meanwhile, in another adorable shot, Perry helped hold up a plate of full of truffles while Bloom got a good sniff in. Abigail Adams,, 7 Aug. 2021 Amazingly, Heurtel has never gotten a sniff at the NBA., 7 Aug. 2021 Here are four pretty clear indicators that time has come: Turns out, the sniff test is pretty useful here. Amy Marturana Winderl, SELF, 7 July 2021 An intriguing additional finding was that many of the people who had recovered their olfactory function as rated by an objective sniff test continued to believe their sense of taste and smell was reduced. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 25 June 2021 All reportedly passed their sniff tests with flying colors. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 11 June 2021 These are joined by mineral notes pulsing through each sniff, as well as licorice and woodsy spices. Brian Freedman, Forbes, 8 June 2021

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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Time Traveler for sniff

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near sniff



sniff around/round

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Statistics for sniff

Last Updated

11 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sniff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on sniff

Nglish: Translation of sniff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sniff for Arabic Speakers


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