verb (used without object)

to smile, laugh, or contort the face in a manner that shows scorn or contempt: They sneered at his pretensions.
to speak or write in a manner expressive of derision or scorn.

verb (used with object)

to utter or say in a sneering manner.


a look or expression of derision, scorn, or contempt.
a derisive or scornful utterance, especially one more or less covert or insinuative.
an act of sneering.

Origin of sneer

1545–55; orig., to snort; compare Frisian (N dial.) sneere scornful remark, snarl1
Related formssneer·er, nounsneer·ful, adjectivesneer·ing·ly, adverbsneer·less, adjectivesub·sneer, nounun·sneer·ing, adjectiveun·sneer·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for sneer

2. gibe. See scoff1. 5. scoff, gibe, jeer. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sneering

Contemporary Examples of sneering

  • Their shocked glee was cacophonous: for many conservatives, the glitterati of Hollywood are a bunch of sneering atheists.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Matthew McConaughey’s God Moment

    William O’Connor

    March 3, 2014

  • The far more disturbing aspect is the sneering tone of accusation that can creep into the latest revelation.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Could Tylenol Cause ADHD?

    Kent Sepkowitz

    February 25, 2014

  • Second: even if the idea were a good idea, the NRA's sneering references to the president's family are beyond the pale.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The NRA Guns for Sasha and Malia

    David Frum

    January 16, 2013

  • Three months ago, what was on display was the well-developed British talent for carping, sneering, and nitpicking.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Britain Gets Its Groove Back

    Peter Popham

    September 16, 2012

  • Then came the pivot to taking on the opposition, which Biden did with his customary relish: smiling rather than sneering.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Joe Biden’s Happy Warrior Speech

    Michelle Cottle

    September 7, 2012

Historical Examples of sneering

British Dictionary definitions for sneering



a facial expression of scorn or contempt, typically with the upper lip curled
a scornful or contemptuous remark or utterance


(intr) to assume a facial expression of scorn or contempt
to say or utter (something) in a scornful or contemptuous manner
Derived Formssneerer, nounsneerful, adjectivesneering, adjective, nounsneeringly, adverb

Word Origin for sneer

C16: perhaps from Low Dutch; compare North Frisian sneere contempt
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 sneering



1550s, "to snort" (of horses), perhaps from North Frisian sneere "to scorn," related to Old English fnæran "to snort, gnash one's teeth," of imitative origin (cf. Danish snærre "to grin like a dog," Middle Dutch, Middle High German snarren "to rattle"). Meaning "to smile contemptuously" is from 1670s; sense of "to curl the upper lip in scorn" is attested from 1775. Related: Sneered; sneering. Sneer word is in E. Digby Baltzell (1987).



1707, from sneer (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper