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sniff

[snif]
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verb (used without object)
  1. to draw air through the nose in short, audible inhalations.
  2. to clear the nose by so doing; sniffle.
  3. to smell by short inhalations.
  4. to show disdain, contempt, etc., by or as by sniffing.
verb (used with object)
  1. to perceive by or as by smelling: to sniff a scandal.
  2. to inhale through the nose: to sniff the air.
noun
  1. an act of sniffing; a single, short, audible inhalation.
  2. the sound made by such an act.
  3. a scent or odor perceived: a sniff of perfume.

Origin of sniff

1300–50; Middle English; back formation from snivel
Related formssniff·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sniff

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He did not speak, but he made an inarticulate noise between a grunt and a sniff.

  • He just stuck his nose into old Hagar's wikiup—and one sniff seemed to be about all he wanted.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • He tried to sniff noses with her, but she retreated playfully and coyly.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Captain Zelotes' only comment was a sniff or snort, or combination of both.

    The Portygee

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • Albert sniffed suspiciously, but no odor of alcohol rewarded the sniff.

    The Portygee

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln


British Dictionary definitions for sniff

sniff

verb
  1. to inhale through the nose, usually in short rapid audible inspirations, as for the purpose of identifying a scent, for clearing a congested nasal passage, or for taking a drug or intoxicating fumes
  2. (when intr, often foll by at) to perceive or attempt to perceive (a smell) by inhaling through the nose
noun
  1. the act or sound of sniffing
  2. a smell perceived by sniffing, esp a faint scent
Derived Formssniffing, noun, adjective

Word Origin

C14: probably related to snivelen to snivel
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 sniff

v.

mid-14c., of imitative origin; possibly related to snyvelen (see snivel). As an expression of scorn or contempt from 1729. As a synonym for smell (v.) it dates from 1845. In reference to cocaine from 1925. Related: Sniffed; sniffing.

n.

1767, from sniff (v.); the scornful sense is from 1859.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper