\ 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

Explosive-sniffing dogs, sharpshooters, security perimeters, license-plate camera scanners, and checkpoints are in full-force. Dan Dubno, Popular Mechanics, "How We'll Stop Chemical Attacks," 28 Apr. 2019 By Elaina Zachos PUBLISHED May 14, 2018 Roughly 50 years ago, the French explorer Jacques Cousteau was sniffing around in the deep ocean with the submarine DEEPSTAR 4000. National Geographic, "This Mysterious Deep-Sea Jellyfish Looks Like a Plastic Bag," 14 May 2018 Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey said Thursday night that his crew is using high-tech listening devices, trained sniffing dogs and search cameras in a race to find anyone still alive in the rubble., "The Latest on the Deadly Bridge Collapse in Miami," 16 Mar. 2018 The premiere, one of the biggest events Hollywood has seen in years, took place at three theaters and required a veritable empire of security guards, off-duty cops and at least one bomb-sniffing dog. Newsweek, "January 22 Issue," 22 Jan. 2018 But there are tougher questions ahead, such as whether Microsoft will implement its Data Loss Prevention tool to sniff out confidential conversations. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft Teams taps AI to boost new background, whiteboarding features," 19 Mar. 2019 Camilla was treated to demonstrations by the dogs, who are trained to sniff out various diseases. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Meets Dogs Trained to Detect Disease," 20 Feb. 2019 Brian Clough, one of the nation’s all-time great managers, used to brag about dispatching assistants to sniff around opponents’ practices on a regular basis. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "On His Manager’s Secret Service: Espionage Comes to English Soccer," 15 Jan. 2019 Earlier this season, park officials heard reports of a black bear sniffing around vehicles and sometimes climbing into the beds of pickups at the Glen Alps Trailhead. Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, "Bear killed after it smashes SUV window and climbs inside at Anchorage trailhead," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

14 May 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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using a distributed computer network

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