\ 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

Naturally, securing Mbappe is far easier said than done, and surely harder than sealing a deal for the Brazilian, especially with Real Madrid sniffing around, but a united board would certainly help., "'Internal Debate' Growing at Barcelona Over Whether to Target Neymar or Kylian Mbappe," 13 Sep. 2019 Their lineup is littered with borderline ballplayers, men who would not sniff starting spots for franchises who aspire for championships. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros keep rolling, dismantle Athletics," 9 Sep. 2019 Remember how McCourty, the man who’d never sniffed the playoffs in nine previous years in the NFL, had come to New England to join his twin brother Devin and chase the championship dream. Tara Sullivan,, "Patriots defense has all the makings of dominance," 3 Sep. 2019 The black bear stood on its hind legs, sniffing around and pawing through the fridge of the family's cabin in Truckee, California, about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Christina Zdanowicz, CNN, "A bear broke into a house and raided the fridge as terrified teens hid in the next room," 20 Aug. 2019 More broadly, for the EU to break its promise to one Balkan state will boost leaders in others who say the Europeans cannot be trusted, and other powers sniffing around, from Russia to China to Turkey, will take note. The Economist, "The EU must keep its promise to North Macedonia," 13 June 2019 Silver Lake approached the company in 2014, and Thomas H. Lee Partners was sniffing around in 2017. Polina Marinova, Fortune, "Term Sheet -- Tuesday, June 11," 11 June 2019 Some became active as a rat sniffed around, say, its enclosure’s northeast corner, but otherwise remained quiet; others fired in the cage’s center. Quanta Magazine, "The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces," 14 Jan. 2019 So who sniffed out the stash under the seats of a Nissan Rogue?, "Today: ‘Maximum Pressure,’ Iran Edition," 22 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The twists don’t entirely hold up to a sniff test of believability but satisfy as emotional complications. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Williams and Moore face off in melodramatic ‘After the Wedding’," 22 Aug. 2019 The twists don’t entirely hold up to a sniff test of believability but satisfy as emotional complications. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore face off in the melodramatic ‘After the Wedding’," 8 Aug. 2019 On two of five subway lines, riders had a sniff at aromatherapy. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Riders in Vienna have opted for stale subway air over aromatherapy," 10 Aug. 2019 Better to give either or both the stem and blossom end a good sniff. Bill St. John, The Denver Post, "Get Cooking: How to select (and utilize) melon," 2 July 2019 When in doubt, ask someone close to you for a sniff test. Karla L. Miller, Washington Post, "Work Advice: ‘Smelly’ co-workers give their side of the story," 12 July 2019 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

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

17 Sep 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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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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