verb (used with object), snagged, snag·ging.

verb (used without object), snagged, snag·ging.

Origin of snag

First recorded in 1570–80, snag is from the Old Norse word snagi point, projection
Related formssnag·like, adjectiveun·snagged, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for snag

Contemporary Examples of snag

Historical Examples of snag

  • We also paused to look at the body of a dead alligator which had been caught in a snag.

    The Last Voyage

    Lady (Annie Allnutt) Brassey

  • Then I had to look at the river mighty quick, because there was a snag in the fairway.

    Heart of Darkness

    Joseph Conrad

  • If we'd struck a snag that would have held the tree, it would have been 'good-night' for us.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx

  • The only snag in the latter theory was the fact of our accident.

    Highways in Hiding

    George Oliver Smith

  • They were always to be seen lying on a log or snag in the water.

British Dictionary definitions for snag



a difficulty or disadvantagethe snag is that I have nothing suitable to wear
a sharp protuberance, such as a tree stump
a small loop or hole in a fabric caused by a sharp object
engineering a projection that brings to a stop a sliding or rotating component
mainly US and Canadian a tree stump in a riverbed that is dangerous to navigation
US and Canadian a standing dead tree, esp one used as a perch by an eagle
(plural) Australian slang sausages

verb snags, snagging or snagged

(tr) to hinder or impede
(tr) to tear or catch (fabric)
(intr) to develop a snag
(intr) mainly US and Canadian (of a boat) to strike or be damaged by a snag
(tr) mainly US and Canadian to clear (a stretch of water) of snags
(tr) US to seize (an opportunity, benefit, etc)
Derived Formssnaglike, adjective

Word Origin for snag

C16: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse snaghyrndr sharp-pointed, Norwegian snage spike, Icelandic snagi peg
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 snag

1570s, "stump of a tree, branch," of Scandinavian origin, cf. Old Norse snagi "clothes peg," snaga "a kind of ax," snag-hyrndr "snag-cornered, with sharp points." The ground sense seems to be "a sharp protuberance." The meaning "sharp or jagged projection" is first recorded 1580s; especially "tree or branch in water and partly near the surface, so as to be dangerous to navigation" (1807). The figurative meaning "obstacle, impediment" is from 1829.


"be caught on an impediment," 1807, from snag (n.). Originally in American English, often in reference to steamboats caught on branches and stumps lodged in riverbeds. Of fabric, from 1967. The transitive meaning "to catch, steal, pick up" is U.S. colloquial, attested from 1895. Related: Snagged; snagging.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with snag


see hit a snag.

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