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whiff1

[hwif, wif]
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noun
  1. a slight gust or puff of wind, air, vapor, smoke, or the like: a whiff of fresh air.
  2. a slight trace of odor or smell: a whiff of onions.
  3. a single inhalation or exhalation of air, tobacco smoke, or the like.
  4. a trace or hint: a whiff of scandal.
  5. a slight outburst: a little whiff of temper.
verb (used without object)
  1. to blow or come in whiffs or puffs, as wind or smoke.
  2. to inhale or exhale whiffs, as in smoking tobacco.
  3. Baseball Slang. (of a batter) to strike out by swinging at and missing the pitch charged as the third strike.
verb (used with object)
  1. to blow or drive with a whiff or puff, as the wind does.
  2. to inhale or exhale (air, tobacco smoke, etc.) in whiffs.
  3. to smoke (a pipe, cigar, etc.).
  4. Baseball Slang. (of a pitcher) to cause (a batter) to whiff.

Origin of whiff1

1585–95; aspirated variant of Middle English weffe whiff (of steam or vapor)
Related formswhiff·er, noun

whiff2

[hwif, wif]
noun
  1. any of several flatfishes having both eyes on the left side of the head, of the genus Citharichthys, as C. cornutus (horned whiff), inhabiting Atlantic waters from New England to Brazil.

Origin of whiff2

First recorded in 1705–15; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for whiff

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But he brought into the house with him a whiff of cheeriness and hope for which I could not but be grateful.

  • Jeff could almost feel the whiff and wind of the temperamental rush.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • Now, Peter came so fast that the air whistled about him, jumped—and whiff!

  • He had breathed a whiff of perfume of which he said nothing either—of some perfume he did not know.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • After a while a whiff of smoke drifted round to where he sat.


British Dictionary definitions for whiff

whiff1

noun
  1. a passing odour
  2. a brief gentle gust of air
  3. a single inhalation or exhalation from the mouth or nose
verb
  1. to come, convey, or go in whiffs; puff or waft
  2. to take in or breathe out (tobacco smoke, air, etc)
  3. (tr) to sniff or smell
  4. (intr) British slang to have an unpleasant smell; stink
Derived Formswhiffer, noun

Word Origin

C16: of imitative origin

whiff2

noun
  1. mainly British a narrow clinker-built skiff having outriggers, for one oarsman

Word Origin

C19: special use of whiff 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 whiff

n.

13c., weffe "foul scent or odor," of imitative origin. Modern form became popular late 16c. with tobacco smoking, probably influenced by whiffle "blow in gusts or puffs" (1560s). The verb in the baseball slang sense "to swing at a ball and miss" first recorded 1913.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper