[sniv-uh l]
verb (used without object), sniv·eled, sniv·el·ing or (especially British) sniv·elled, sniv·el·ling.
  1. to weep or cry with sniffling.
  2. to affect a tearful state; whine.
  3. to run at the nose; have a runny nose: She sniveled from the cold.
  4. to draw up mucus audibly through the nose: Stop sniveling and use your handkerchief.
verb (used with object), sniv·eled, sniv·el·ing or (especially British) sniv·elled, sniv·el·ling.
  1. to utter with sniveling or sniffling.
  1. weak, whining, or pretended weeping.
  2. a light sniffle, as in weeping.
  3. a hypocritical show of feeling: a sentimental snivel.
  4. mucus running from the nose.
  5. snivels, a sniveling condition; a slight cold; sniffles (usually preceded by the).

Origin of snivel

1275–1325; Middle English snyvele; compare Old English snyflung (gerund), derivative of snofl mucus; cognate with Low German snüfeln
Related formssniv·el·er; especially British, sniv·el·ler, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for snivelling

gripe, whimper, whine, groan, shine, sob, sniff, blubber, weep, complain, fret, sniffle

Examples from the Web for snivelling

Contemporary Examples of snivelling

  • Philip told Charles that Mountbatten was dead and it was no good “snivelling” about this fact.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Prince Turns 90

    Tom Sykes

    June 10, 2011

Historical Examples of snivelling

  • From laughter and tears the descent is easy to snivelling and giggles.

    Notes on My Books

    Joseph Conrad

  • Joe raised himself, snivelling, and commenced to revile Sam.

    The Huntress

    Hulbert Footner

  • I never could become an ill-used, suffering, snivelling wife.

    Cruel As The Grave

    Mrs. Emma D. E. N. Southworth

  • He stood over there beside you, snivelling into his red bandanna.

    The Maids of Paradise

    Robert W. (Robert William) Chambers

  • Judy was snivelling and sobbing in the most woebegone manner.

    Jane Allen: Center

    Edith Bancroft

British Dictionary definitions for snivelling


verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled
  1. (intr) to sniffle as a sign of distress, esp contemptibly
  2. to utter (something) tearfully; whine
  3. (intr) to have a runny nose
  1. an instance of snivelling
Derived Formssniveller, nounsnivelling, adjective, nounsnivelly, adjective

Word Origin for snivel

C14 snivelen; related to Old English snyflung mucus, Dutch snuffelen to smell out, Old Norse snoppa snout
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 snivelling

"mean-spirited, weak," 1640s, present-participle adjective from snivel (v.). Related: Snivellingly.



Old English *snyflan "to run at the nose" (cf. snyflung "running of the nose"), related to snofl "nasal mucus;" see snout. Meaning "to be in an (affected) tearful state" is from 1680s. Related: Snivelled; snivelling. As a noun from 14c. Melville coined snivelization (1849). Middle English had contemptuous term snivelard (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper