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  1. any of numerous limbless, scaly, elongate reptiles of the suborder Serpentes, comprising venomous and nonvenomous species inhabiting tropical and temperate areas.
  2. a treacherous person; an insidious enemy.Compare snake in the grass.
  3. Building Trades.
    1. Also called auger, plumber's snake.(in plumbing) a device for dislodging obstructions in curved pipes, having a head fed into the pipe at the end of a flexible metal band.
    2. Also called wirepuller.a length of resilient steel wire, for threading through an electrical conduit so that wire can be pulled through after it.
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verb (used without object), snaked, snak·ing.
  1. to move, twist, or wind: The road snakes among the mountains.
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verb (used with object), snaked, snak·ing.
  1. to wind or make (one's course, way, etc.) in the manner of a snake: to snake one's way through a crowd.
  2. to drag or haul, especially by a chain or rope, as a log.
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Origin of snake

before 1000; Middle English (noun); Old English snaca; cognate with Middle Low German snake, Old Norse snākr
Related formssnake·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for snaking

ambiguous, tortuous, oblique, incidental, implied, ancillary, circuitous, skulk, crouch, prowl, creep, traipse, ramble, stray, drift, snake, roam, stroll, slink, lurk

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Historical Examples of snaking

British Dictionary definitions for snaking


  1. any reptile of the suborder Ophidia (or Serpentes), typically having a scaly cylindrical limbless body, fused eyelids, and a jaw modified for swallowing large prey: includes venomous forms such as cobras and rattlesnakes, large nonvenomous constrictors (boas and pythons), and small harmless types such as the grass snakeRelated adjectives: colubrine, ophidian
  2. Also called: snake in the grass a deceitful or treacherous person
  3. anything resembling a snake in appearance or action
  4. (in the European Union) a former system of managing a group of currencies by allowing the exchange rate of each of them only to fluctuate within narrow limits
  5. a tool in the form of a long flexible wire for unblocking drains
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  1. (intr) to glide or move like a snake
  2. (tr) US to haul (a heavy object, esp a log) by fastening a rope around one end of it
  3. (tr) US (often foll by out) to pull jerkily
  4. (tr) to move in or follow (a sinuous course)
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Derived Formssnakelike, adjective

Word Origin for snake

Old English snaca; related to Old Norse snākr snake, Old High German snahhan to crawl, Norwegian snōk snail
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 snaking



Old English snaca, from Proto-Germanic *snakon (cf. Old Norse snakr "snake," Swedish snok, German Schnake "ring snake"), from PIE root *sneg- "to crawl, creeping thing" (cf. Old Irish snaighim "to creep," Lithuanian snake "snail," Old High German snahhan "to creep"). In Modern English, gradually replacing serpent in popular use.

Traditionally applied to the British serpent, as distinguished from the poisonous adder. Meaning "treacherous person" first recorded 1580s (cf. Old Church Slavonic gadu "reptile," gadinu "foul, hateful"). Applied from 17c. to various snake-like devices and appliances. Snakes! as an exclamation is from 1839.

Snake eyes in crap-shooting sense is from 1919. Snake oil is from 1927. Snake-bitten "unlucky" is sports slang from 1957, from a literal sense, perhaps suggesting one doomed by being poisoned. The game of Snakes and Ladders is attested from 1907. Snake charmer is from 1813. Snake pit is from 1883, as a supposed primitive test of truth or courage; figurative sense is from 1941. Phrase snake in the grass is from Virgil's Latet anguis in herba [Ecl. III:93].

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1650s, "to twist or wind (hair) into the form of a snake," from snake (n.). The intransitive sense of "to move like a snake" is attested from 1848; that of "to wind or twist like a snake" (of roads, etc.) is from 1875. Related: Snaked; snaking.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper