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Apparently from Dutch snavel, from Middle Dutch snavel, snabel (snout), diminutive of Middle Dutch snabbe, snebbe (bird's bill, neb). Akin to Old Frisian snavel (mouth), Middle Low German snabbe (neb, beak), Old English nebb (beak, bill, nose, face). More at neb.



snaffle (plural snaffles)

  1. A broad-mouthed, loose-ringed bit (metal in a horse's mouth). It brings pressure to bear on the tongue and bars and corners of the mouth. Often used as a training bit.
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
      Captain went out in the cab all the morning. Harry came in after school to feed me and give me water. In the afternoon I was put into the cab. Jerry took as much pains to see if the collar and bridle fitted comfortably as if he had been John Manly over again. When the crupper was let out a hole or two it all fitted well. There was no check-rein, no curb, nothing but a plain ring snaffle. What a blessing that was!
  2. (figuratively) Decorative wear that looks like a snaffle.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 2, in The Celebrity:
      Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. [] A silver snaffle on a heavy leather watch guard which connected the pockets of his corduroy waistcoat, together with a huge gold stirrup in his Ascot tie, sufficiently proclaimed his tastes.



snaffle (third-person singular simple present snaffles, present participle snaffling, simple past and past participle snaffled)

  1. (transitive) To put a snaffle on, or control with a snaffle.
  2. (transitive) To clutch by the bridle.
  3. (transitive, informal) To grab or seize; to snap up.
  4. (transitive, informal) To purloin, or obtain by devious means.
    • 2014, Geoffrey Bennett, The Battles of Coronel and the Falklands, 1914:
      [] the Master at Arms, the senior member of the lower deck and chief policeman, was found to be drunk; he must have snaffled some of the crew's rum ration always kept closely guarded in a special locker []

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