See more synonyms for snuff on
verb (used with object)
  1. to draw in through the nose by inhaling.
  2. to perceive by or as by smelling; sniff.
  3. to examine by smelling, as an animal does.
verb (used without object)
  1. to draw air into the nostrils by inhaling, as to smell something; snuffle: After snuffing around, he found the gas leak.
  2. to draw powdered tobacco into the nostrils; take snuff.
  3. Obsolete. to express disdain, contempt, displeasure, etc., by sniffing (often followed by at).
  1. an act of snuffing; an inhalation through the nose; a sniff.
  2. smell, scent, or odor.
  3. a preparation of tobacco, either powdered and taken into the nostrils by inhalation or ground and placed between the cheek and gum.
  4. a pinch of such tobacco.
  1. up to snuff, Informal.
    1. British.not easily imposed upon; shrewd; sharp.
    2. up to a certain standard; satisfactory: His performance wasn't up to snuff.

Origin of snuff

First recorded in 1520–30, snuff is from the Dutch word snuffen
Related formssnuff·ing·ly, adverb


  1. the charred or partly consumed portion of a candlewick.
  2. a thing of little or no value, especially if left over.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cut off or remove the snuff of (candles, tapers, etc.).
Verb Phrases
  1. snuff out,
    1. to extinguish: to snuff out a candle.
    2. to suppress; crush: to snuff out opposition.
    3. kill or murder: Many lives were snuffed out during the epidemic.

Origin of snuff

1350–1400; Middle English snoffe < ? Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for snuff

extinguish, detect

Examples from the Web for snuff

Contemporary Examples of snuff

Historical Examples of snuff

British Dictionary definitions for snuff


  1. (tr) to inhale through the nose
  2. (when intr, often foll by at) (esp of an animal) to examine by sniffing
  1. an act or the sound of snuffing
Derived Formssnuffer, noun

Word Origin for snuff

C16: probably from Middle Dutch snuffen to snuffle, ultimately of imitative origin


  1. finely powdered tobacco for sniffing up the nostrils or less commonly for chewing
  2. a small amount of this
  3. any powdered substance, esp one for sniffing up the nostrils
  4. up to snuff informal
    1. in good health or in good condition
    2. mainly Britishnot easily deceived
  1. (intr) to use or inhale snuff

Word Origin for snuff

C17: from Dutch snuf, shortened from snuftabale, literally: tobacco for snuffing; see snuff 1


verb (tr)
  1. (often foll by out) to extinguish (a light from a naked flame, esp a candle)
  2. to cut off the charred part of (the wick of a candle, etc)
  3. (usually foll by out) informal to suppress; put an end to
  4. snuff it British informal to die
  1. the burned portion of the wick of a candle

Word Origin for snuff

C14 snoffe, of obscure origin
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 snuff

"to cut or pinch off the burned part of a candle wick," mid-15c., from noun snoffe "burned part of a candle wick" (late 14c.), of unknown origin, perhaps related to snuff (v.2). The meaning "to die" is from 1865; that of "to kill" is from 1932; snuff-film, originally an urban legend, is from 1975.


"draw in through the nose," 1520s, from Dutch or Flemish snuffen "to sniff, snuff," related to Dutch snuiven "to sniff," from Proto-Germanic *snuf- (cf. Middle High German snupfe, German Schnupfen "head-cold"), imitative of the sound of drawing air through the nose (see snout). Related: Snuffed; snuffing.


"powdered tobacco to be inhaled," 1680s, from Dutch or Flemish snuf, shortened form of snuftabak "snuff tobacco," from snuffen "to sniff, snuff" (see snuff (v.2)). The practice became fashionable in England c.1680. Slang phrase up to snuff "knowing, sharp, wide-awake, not likely to be deceived" is from 1811; the exact sense is obscure unless it refers to the "elevating" properties of snuff.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

snuff in Medicine


  1. To inhale something audibly through the nose; sniff.
  1. A preparation of finely pulverized tobacco that can be drawn up into the nostrils by inhaling.
  2. A medicated powder inhaled through or blown into the nose.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with snuff


In addition to the idiom beginning with snuff

  • snuff out

also see:

  • up to par (snuff)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.