1 of 2


sniffed; sniffing; sniffs

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

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


2 of 2


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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
With literally hundreds of bottles to sniff, spray, and layer—Kattan says stepping into her fragrance closet allowed for the perfect escape over the last few years. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, 16 Nov. 2022 Not only is the duck fat pure culinary gold, the carcass is nothing to sniff at. Hana Asbrink, Bon Appétit, 8 Nov. 2022 This will ensure your dog is getting added health benefits while using their brain power to sniff out their favorite Pupper treats. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 23 Oct. 2022 But the same time, concerns about population decline are nothing to sniff at. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 4 Oct. 2022 The Dallas Zoo and a Fort Worth company have partnered to create a product that’s nothing to sniff at: Zoo Poo. Dallas News, 11 Feb. 2022 Using dogs to sniff out imperfections in casks has been tried before. Leslie Wu, Forbes, 1 June 2021 Occasionally, a cocker spaniel mix named Okie wanders into the room to urgently sniff everyone. Emily Yahr, Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2022 Felix the dog helps sniff out the best ones at Boston Hill Farm's self-pick pumpkin patch. Linda Greenstein,, 21 Oct. 2022
Extrapolating without seeing if the projections pass the sniff test is a fool's errand. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 4 July 2013 An organization that competed in eight Super Bowls and 16 NFC (or NFL) championship games in a 30-year stretch has now gone 26 without a sniff of either. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, 3 Nov. 2022 Infused with sweet almonds and tree blossom notes, one sniff of this scent will leave you smelling fresh. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 2 Dec. 2022 Sometimes, one sniff of aromatic oil can do wonders for busy bees who are stressed to the max. Nerisha Penrose, ELLE, 29 Nov. 2022 The combination of good economic growth and higher inflation is palatable to markets, but a sniff of stagflation would not be received well. Bill Stone, Forbes, 14 Nov. 2021 His performance the first two periods was the only reason the Blazers had a sniff in the 3rd. Dylan Bumbarger, oregonlive, 24 Sep. 2022 The best free agent may be Cam Newton, who hasn’t gotten a sniff this offseason. Ben Volin,, 12 Sep. 2022 During the traffic stop, Burton's K9 indicated the possible presence of narcotics after an open-air sniff. The Indianapolis Star, 12 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History



Middle English

First Known Use


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


1767, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near sniff

Cite this Entry

“Sniff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to draw air into the nose in short breaths loud enough to be heard
sniffed at the cheese
: to show or express scorn
sniffed at simple jobs
: to smell or inhale by taking short breaths
sniff perfume
: to detect by or as if by smelling
sniff out trouble
sniffer noun


2 of 2 noun
: the act or sound of sniffing
: an odor or amount sniffed

More from Merriam-Webster on sniff

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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