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[snoh-bawl] /ˈsnoʊˌbɔl/
a ball of snow pressed or rolled together, as for throwing.
any of several shrubs belonging to the genus Viburnum, of the honeysuckle family, having large clusters of white, sterile flowers.
a confection of crushed ice, usually in the shape of a ball, which is flavored with fruit or other syrup and served in a paper cup.
a scoop or ball of ice cream covered with shredded coconut and usually chocolate sauce.
verb (used with object)
to throw snowballs at.
to cause to grow or become larger, greater, more intense, etc., at an accelerating rate:
to snowball a small business into a great enterprise.
verb (used without object)
to grow or become larger, greater, more intense, etc., at an accelerating rate.
Origin of snowball
1350-1400; Middle English (noun); see snow, ball1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for snowballing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was snowy weather, and she caught sight of the two boys in the yard below, snowballing each other.

  • That was snowballing a cripple, and he was really most woebegone about it.

    The Making of Bobby Burnit George Randolph Chester
  • The situation is like that of a middle-aged gentleman beset by a small boy on a morning just right for snowballing.

    Humanly Speaking Samuel McChord Crothers
  • Others were washing one another's faces and some were snowballing.

    The Curlytops Snowed In Howard R. Garis
  • Theres skating and ice sailing and coasting and snowballing and lots of things.

    Bobby Blake on a Plantation Frank A. Warner
  • Wrestling, boxing, snowballing are variations on attack and defense.

    Psychology Robert S. Woodworth
  • Others as quickly followed—it was not snowing, it was snowballing.

  • Ruth and Helen were already outside, snowballing with the boys.

British Dictionary definitions for snowballing


snow pressed into a ball for throwing, as in play
a drink made of advocaat and lemonade
(slang) a mixture of heroin and cocaine
a dance started by one couple who separate and choose different partners. The process continues until all present are dancing
(intransitive) to increase rapidly in size, importance, etc: their woes have snowballed since last year
(transitive) to throw snowballs at
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
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Word Origin and History for snowballing



c.1400, from snow (n.) + ball (n.1). Cf. West Frisian sniebal, Middle Dutch sneubal, German Schneeball, Danish snebold. Expression snowball's chance (in hell) "no chance" is recorded by 1910.


"to make snowballs," 1680s, from snowball (n.); sense of "to throw snowballs at" (someone) is from 1850. Meaning "to increase rapidly" is attested from 1929, though the image of a snowball increasing in size as it rolls along had been used since at least 1613, and a noun sense of "a pyramid scheme" is attested from 1892. Related: Snowballed; snowballing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for snowballing



  1. To increase rapidly: Soon the racket began to snowball (1929+)
  2. To dominate and crush; steamroller: He's less sensitive to people's feelings. He runs over them, snowballs them (1850+)

[first sense fr the fact that a snowball rolled downhill becomes larger and larger; second sense fr the notion of attacking someone with snowballs]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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