verb (used with object)

to throw snowballs at.
to cause to grow or become larger, greater, more intense, etc., at an accelerating rate: to snowball a small business into a great enterprise.

verb (used without object)

to grow or become larger, greater, more intense, etc., at an accelerating rate.

Origin of snowball

1350–1400; Middle English (noun); see snow, ball1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for snowball

Contemporary Examples of snowball

Historical Examples of snowball

  • He knew that the whole world is a snowball, and that all the stars are snowballs.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • The snowball missed her, and came with a great bang against the barrel.

  • But they do, and most of them look as dignified as can be, in spite of the snowball.

    Galusha the Magnificent

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • You seem to be aiming at me as directly as a small boy aims his snowball.

    The Gorgeous Girl

    Nalbro Bartley

  • Another old-time enjoyment of that date was a snowball fight.

    Robert Louis Stevenson

    Margaret Moyes Black

British Dictionary definitions for snowball



snow pressed into a ball for throwing, as in play
a drink made of advocaat and lemonade
slang a mixture of heroin and cocaine
a dance started by one couple who separate and choose different partners. The process continues until all present are dancing


(intr) to increase rapidly in size, importance, etctheir woes have snowballed since last year
(tr) to throw snowballs at
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 snowball

c.1400, from snow (n.) + ball (n.1). Cf. West Frisian sniebal, Middle Dutch sneubal, German Schneeball, Danish snebold. Expression snowball's chance (in hell) "no chance" is recorded by 1910.


"to make snowballs," 1680s, from snowball (n.); sense of "to throw snowballs at" (someone) is from 1850. Meaning "to increase rapidly" is attested from 1929, though the image of a snowball increasing in size as it rolls along had been used since at least 1613, and a noun sense of "a pyramid scheme" is attested from 1892. Related: Snowballed; snowballing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper