• synonyms


verb (used without object)
  1. to draw air through the nose in short, audible inhalations.
  2. to clear the nose by so doing; sniffle.
  3. to smell by short inhalations.
  4. to show disdain, contempt, etc., by or as by sniffing.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to perceive by or as by smelling: to sniff a scandal.
  2. to inhale through the nose: to sniff the air.
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  1. an act of sniffing; a single, short, audible inhalation.
  2. the sound made by such an act.
  3. a scent or odor perceived: a sniff of perfume.
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Origin of sniff

1300–50; Middle English; back formation from snivel
Related formssniff·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for sniffed

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Aggie sniffed, as if such an outcome were the merest bagatelle.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Aggie sniffed vehemently in rebuke of the gross partiality of fate in his behalf.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Gypsy would have nothing to do with her, and sniffed the air with offended dignity.

  • Her first thought was of fire; she sniffed; the air was pure and clear.

    The Green Satin Gown

    Laura E. Richards

  • Major White, with his delicate sense of smell, sniffed the breeze.

    Roden's Corner

    Henry Seton Merriman

British Dictionary definitions for sniffed


  1. to inhale through the nose, usually in short rapid audible inspirations, as for the purpose of identifying a scent, for clearing a congested nasal passage, or for taking a drug or intoxicating fumes
  2. (when intr, often foll by at) to perceive or attempt to perceive (a smell) by inhaling through the nose
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  1. the act or sound of sniffing
  2. a smell perceived by sniffing, esp a faint scent
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Derived Formssniffing, noun, adjective

Word Origin

C14: probably related to snivelen to snivel
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 sniffed



mid-14c., of imitative origin; possibly related to snyvelen (see snivel). As an expression of scorn or contempt from 1729. As a synonym for smell (v.) it dates from 1845. In reference to cocaine from 1925. Related: Sniffed; sniffing.

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1767, from sniff (v.); the scornful sense is from 1859.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper