sniv·​el | \ ˈsni-vəl How to pronounce snivel (audio) \
sniveled or snivelled; sniveling or snivelling\ ˈsni-​və-​liŋ How to pronounce snivel (audio) , ˈsniv-​liŋ \

Definition of snivel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to run at the nose
2 : to snuff mucus up the nose audibly : snuffle
3 : to cry or whine with snuffling
4 : to speak or act in a whining, sniffling, tearful, or weakly emotional manner



Definition of snivel (Entry 2 of 2)

1 snivels plural, dialect : head cold
2 : an act of sniveling

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Other Words from snivel


sniveler \ ˈsni-​və-​lər How to pronounce snivel (audio) , ˈsniv-​lər \ noun

Did You Know?


There's never been anything pretty about sniveling. Snivel, which originally meant simply "to have a runny nose," was probably snyflan in Old English. It's likely related to sniffle, not surprisingly, and also to an Old English word for mucus, snofl. It's even related to the Middle Dutch word for a cold, snof, and the Old Norse word for snout, which is snoppa. There's also a connection to nan, a Greek verb meaning "flow." Nowadays, we mostly use snivel, as we have since the 1600s, to refer to self-pitying whining, whether or not such sniveling is accompanied by unchecked nasal flow.

Examples of snivel in a Sentence

Verb millionaires sniveling about their financial problems “Woe is me,” she sniveled.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Another video shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson standing together in a circle like a group of sniveling gossips during lunch in the schoolyard. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "What Really Happened During Princess Anne's Encounter with Donald Trump and the Queen," 4 Dec. 2019 In the 21st century, they are depicted as sniveling wimps and are reviled. The Economist, "Open Future Is liberalism really kaput?," 4 Dec. 2019 Disappointment is running high after Sunday’s Game of Thrones finale and chief among fan grievances is the fact that a sniveling young white boy who often did the least—that would be Bran—ascended to the (now-defunct) Iron Throne. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "A Little White Man Is King on Game of Thrones? Groundbreaking.," 20 May 2019 Its a shame that England's first ever World Cup title had this pathetic, snivelling creature associated with it, and it could be said that the Three Lions' failings at international level ever since lie solely at the feet of World Cup Willie., "World Cup Countdown: 3 Days to Go - Ranking Every World Cup Mascot by How 'Hard' They Are," 11 June 2018 And dim Jim is somewhat of the sniveling little schnauzer of the White House press corps. Fox News, "Nunes and Meadows call for release of FBI text messages," 25 Apr. 2018 Those sniveling toads are too afraid of losing the electoral support of Trump and his minions. GQ, "ESPN Fed Jemele Hill to the Wolves," 11 Oct. 2017 Meanwhile, standup white cop Denny Rakestraw must deal with a sniveling brother-in-law Klansman and a racist wife. Lloyd Sachs,, "Attica Locke's 'Bluebird, Bluebird' soars, plus more crime fiction reviews," 25 Sep. 2017 On Sunday we were reintroduced to the Hilltop, a place of relative plenty — including lots of food, an obstetrician and apparently a big ol’ tractor — overseen by a sniveling degenerate named Gregory. Jeremy Egner, New York Times, "‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7, Episode 5: Maggie Takes Charge," 20 Nov. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'snivel.' 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 snivel


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for snivel


Middle English, from Old English *snyflan; akin to Dutch snuffelen to snuffle, snuffen to sniff

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Time Traveler for snivel

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

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Cite this Entry

“Snivel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for snivel



English Language Learners Definition of snivel

: to complain or cry in an annoying way

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