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verb (used without object)
  1. to growl threateningly or viciously, especially with a raised upper lip to bare the teeth, as a dog.
  2. to speak in a surly or threatening manner suggestive of a dog's snarl.
verb (used with object)
  1. to say by snarling: to snarl a threat.
  1. the act of snarling.
  2. a snarling sound or utterance.

Origin of snarl1

1580–90; earlier snarle, equivalent to obsolete snar to snarl (cognate with Dutch, Low German snarren, German schnarren) + -le
Related formssnarl·er, nounsnarl·ing·ly, adverb


  1. a tangle, as of thread, hair, or wire.
  2. a complicated or confused condition or matter: a traffic snarl.
  3. a knot in wood.
verb (used with object)
  1. to bring into a tangled condition, as thread or hair.
  2. to render complicated or confused: The questions snarled him up.
  3. to raise or emboss, as parts of a thin metal vessel, by hammering on a tool (snarling iron) held against the inner surface of the vessel.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become tangled; get into a tangle.

Origin of snarl2

1350–1400; Middle English snarle; see snare1, -le
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for snarl

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There was a snarl; Jeff had Joe by the throat, and Joe was reaching for his gun.

  • It was like the mingled roar of a lion and the snarl of a tiger.

  • He continued to gaze, and in his interest he forgot to snarl.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • He did not snarl at her, nor show his teeth, when any leap of hers chanced to put her in advance of him.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • He gave no warning, with no snarl anticipated his own action.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for snarl


  1. (intr) (of an animal) to growl viciously, baring the teeth
  2. to speak or express (something) viciously or angrily
  1. a vicious growl, utterance, or facial expression
  2. the act of snarling
Derived Formssnarling, adjectivesnarlingly, adverbsnarly, adjective

Word Origin

C16: of Germanic origin; compare Middle Low German snarren, Middle Dutch snarren to drone


  1. a tangled mass of thread, hair, etc
  2. a complicated or confused state or situation
  3. a knot in wood
  1. (often foll by up) to be, become, or make tangled or complicated
  2. (tr often foll by up) to confuse mentally
  3. (tr) to flute or emboss (metal) by hammering on a tool held against the under surface
Derived Formssnarler, nounsnarly, adjective

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Swedish snarel noose, Old Norse snara snare 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for snarl


"growl and bare the teeth," 1580s, perhaps from Dutch or Low German snarren "to rattle," probably of imitative origin (cf. German schnarren "to rattle," schnurren "to hum, buzz"). Meaning "speak in a harsh manner" first recorded 1690s. Related: Snarled; snarling.


"to tangle, to catch in a snare or noose" (trans.), late 14c., from a noun snarl "a snare, a noose" (late 14c.), probably a diminutive of snare (n.1). Intransitive sense "become twisted or entangled" is from c.1600. Related: Snarled; snarling.


"a sharp growl accompanied by a display of the teeth," 1610s, from snarl (v.2).


late 14c., "a snare, noose," from snarl (v.1). Meaning "a tangle, a knot" is first attested c.1600. Meaning "a traffic jam" is from 1933.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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