: sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner
snarky lyrics
snarkily adverb

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Snarky vs. Sarcastic

Some have questioned whether snarky is a real word. There can be no doubt that it is; the adjective has been recorded in English since 1906. Its original meaning, “crotchety, snappish,” has largely been overtaken, however, by the far more frequently-encountered sense “sarcastic, impertinent or irreverent.” The precise difference between utterances described as sarcastic and snarky will vary somewhat based on the individual using each word. Some feel that sarcastic usually implies irony, or stating the opposite of what is really intended (for example, “thank you so much for your promptness” spoken to someone who arrives late), whereas snarky implies simple impertinence or irreverence (as when Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess asks Isobel Crawley, “does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”)

Example Sentences

The writer at No. 10, Fred Mustard Stewart, died last February at 74. His obituary in The Guardian contained this snarky observation: "Year in, year out, the 600-page mark did not daunt him." Dwight Garner, New York Times Book Review, 24 Feb. 2008
Edwards says his notorious $400 haircut and his 28,000-square-foot house are the obsessions of the media, not "normal voters." (He does have a snarkier press corps than RFK. Not only did reporters not criticize the size of Kennedy's Virginia mansion, they wrote fawning prose about the senator in the hopes of scoring an invitation.) Jonathan Darman, Newsweek, 30 July 2007
If your coworker confronts you, admit you were wrong. But don't overexplain your snarky comment—she may get angrier. Margaret Magnarelli, Glamour, April 2002
Even when he pays someone a compliment, it comes out snarky; recently Valentine said he thought Atlanta's Bobby Cox should be named National League Manager of the Year "because he's had to manage this year." It doesn't matter that until Monday, Valentine managed 1,703 games without making the playoffs. S. L. Price, Sports Illustrated, 11 Oct. 1999
working all day with such snarky jerks is exhausting with champagne as a lubricant, she unleashed an unending series of snarky comments for the duration of the wedding reception See More
Recent Examples on the Web Because there’s something about the Muppets that is very earnest, not ashamed of real emotion and is never snarky. Michael Schneider, Variety, 11 Apr. 2023 The videos range from sincere ruminations on work-life balance to snarky jokes. Lindsay Ellis And Angela Yang, WSJ, 12 Aug. 2022 Robin Li, Baidu’s CEO, admitted halfway through the launch stream that demos of Ernie Bot answering general knowledge questions, summarizing information from the web, and generating images were prerecorded, leading to snarky commentary on Chinese social media. WIRED, 21 Mar. 2023 When Netflix raised prices for its DVD service back in 2011, annoyed consumers overwhelmed Twitter in snarky protest. Vulture, 20 Jan. 2022 Wednesday is dark and snarky; her one-liners are scathing and unrestrained. Maggie Zhou, refinery29.com, 13 Dec. 2022 In Doscher’s class, one student sent a snarky comment to Khanmigo. Lisa Bonos, Washington Post, 3 Apr. 2023 If Babe came across like a delightfully snarky, post-modern rebuke of the romanticized farm in Charlotte’s Web, then let Gunda be their Shoah. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Mar. 2023 Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed Hayden Panettiere in 'Scream VI.' | Credit: Philippe Bossé/Paramount The Nashville star's snarky, horror movie-loving character Kirby Reed became a fan favorite after the teenager was introduced in 2011's Scream 4. Clark Collis, EW.com, 8 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'snarky.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


dialectal snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate

First Known Use

1906, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of snarky was in 1906

Dictionary Entries Near snarky

Cite this Entry

“Snarky.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/snarky. Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

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