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verb (used with object)
  1. to draw in through the nose by inhaling.
  2. to perceive by or as by smelling; sniff.
  3. to examine by smelling, as an animal does.
verb (used without object)
  1. to draw air into the nostrils by inhaling, as to smell something; snuffle: After snuffing around, he found the gas leak.
  2. to draw powdered tobacco into the nostrils; take snuff.
  3. Obsolete. to express disdain, contempt, displeasure, etc., by sniffing (often followed by at).
  1. an act of snuffing; an inhalation through the nose; a sniff.
  2. smell, scent, or odor.
  3. a preparation of tobacco, either powdered and taken into the nostrils by inhalation or ground and placed between the cheek and gum.
  4. a pinch of such tobacco.
  1. up to snuff, Informal.
    1. British.not easily imposed upon; shrewd; sharp.
    2. up to a certain standard; satisfactory: His performance wasn't up to snuff.

Origin of snuff1

First recorded in 1520–30, snuff is from the Dutch word snuffen
Related formssnuff·ing·ly, adverb


  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

Examples from the Web for snuffed

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Again and again she stopped and snuffed, diverged a little, and went on.

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

  • He poked the fire into a blaze, snuffed the candle with his fingers, sang out "My gough!"

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • She snuffed into a handkerchief, and wiped her eyes with a delicate touch or two.

    Nell, of Shorne Mills

    Charles Garvice

  • Then all the energy was snuffed out of him like the switching off of an electric current.

    The Crooked House

    Brandon Fleming

  • All things that were—it seemed to my soul, were snuffed out.

    The Voice of the Machines

    Gerald Stanley Lee

British Dictionary definitions for snuffed


  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 snuffed



"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

snuffed 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 snuffed


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.