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  1. the charred or partly consumed portion of a candlewick.
  2. a thing of little or no value, especially if left over.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cut off or remove the snuff of (candles, tapers, etc.).
Verb Phrases
  1. snuff out,
    1. to extinguish: to snuff out a candle.
    2. to suppress; crush: to snuff out opposition.
    3. Informal.to kill or murder: Many lives were snuffed out during the epidemic.

Origin of snuff2

1350–1400; Middle English snoffe < ?
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for snuff out


  1. (tr) to inhale through the nose
  2. (when intr, often foll by at) (esp of an animal) to examine by sniffing
  1. an act or the sound of snuffing
Derived Formssnuffer, noun

Word Origin

C16: probably from Middle Dutch snuffen to snuffle, ultimately of imitative origin


  1. finely powdered tobacco for sniffing up the nostrils or less commonly for chewing
  2. a small amount of this
  3. any powdered substance, esp one for sniffing up the nostrils
  4. up to snuff informal
    1. in good health or in good condition
    2. mainly Britishnot easily deceived
  1. (intr) to use or inhale snuff

Word Origin

C17: from Dutch snuf, shortened from snuftabale, literally: tobacco for snuffing; see snuff 1


verb (tr)
  1. (often foll by out) to extinguish (a light from a naked flame, esp a candle)
  2. to cut off the charred part of (the wick of a candle, etc)
  3. (usually foll by out) informal to suppress; put an end to
  4. snuff it British informal to die
  1. the burned portion of the wick of a candle

Word Origin

C14 snoffe, of obscure origin
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 snuff out



"to cut or pinch off the burned part of a candle wick," mid-15c., from noun snoffe "burned part of a candle wick" (late 14c.), of unknown origin, perhaps related to snuff (v.2). The meaning "to die" is from 1865; that of "to kill" is from 1932; snuff-film, originally an urban legend, is from 1975.



"draw in through the nose," 1520s, from Dutch or Flemish snuffen "to sniff, snuff," related to Dutch snuiven "to sniff," from Proto-Germanic *snuf- (cf. Middle High German snupfe, German Schnupfen "head-cold"), imitative of the sound of drawing air through the nose (see snout). Related: Snuffed; snuffing.



"powdered tobacco to be inhaled," 1680s, from Dutch or Flemish snuf, shortened form of snuftabak "snuff tobacco," from snuffen "to sniff, snuff" (see snuff (v.2)). The practice became fashionable in England c.1680. Slang phrase up to snuff "knowing, sharp, wide-awake, not likely to be deceived" is from 1811; the exact sense is obscure unless it refers to the "elevating" properties of snuff.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

snuff out in Medicine


  1. To inhale something audibly through the nose; sniff.
  1. A preparation of finely pulverized tobacco that can be drawn up into the nostrils by inhaling.
  2. A medicated powder inhaled through or blown into the nose.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with snuff out

snuff out


Extinguish, put a sudden end to, as in Three young lives were snuffed out in that automobile accident. This usage alludes to snuff in the sense of “put out a candle by pinching the wick,” an area itself called snuff from the late 1300s on. [Mid-1800s]


Kill, murder, as in If he told the police, the gang would snuff him out. [Slang; first half of 1900s]


Also, snuff it. Die or be killed, as in He looked very ill indeed, as though he might snuff out any day, or Grandpa just snuffed it. [Slang; second half of 1800s]


In addition to the idiom beginning with snuff

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.