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From Middle English snacchen, snecchen, from Old English *snæċċan, *sneċċan, from Proto-West Germanic *snakkijan, from Proto-Germanic *snakkijaną, *snakkōną (to nibble, snort, chatter); see *snūtaz (snout).

Cognate with Dutch snakken (to sob, pant, long for), Low German snacken (to chatter), German schnacken (to chat), Norwegian snakke (to chat). Related to snack.


  • IPA(key): /snæt͡ʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ætʃ


snatch (third-person singular simple present snatches, present participle snatching, simple past and past participle snatched)

  1. (transitive) To grasp and remove quickly.
    He snatched up the phone.
    She snatched the letter out of the secretary's hand.
  2. (intransitive) To attempt to seize something suddenly.
    Synonym: grab
    to snatch at a rope
  3. (transitive) To take or seize hastily, abruptly, or without permission or ceremony.
    to snatch a kiss
    • 1731-1735, Alexander Pope, Moral Essays
      when half our knowledge we must snatch, not take
  4. (transitive, informal) To steal.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:steal
    Someone has just snatched my purse!
  5. (transitive, informal, figurative, by extension) To take (a victory) at the last moment.
    • 2012 May 13, Alistair Magowan, “Sunderland 0-1 Man Utd”, in BBC Sport:
      But, with United fans in celebratory mood as it appeared their team might snatch glory, they faced an anxious wait as City equalised in stoppage time.
  6. (transitive, informal) To do something quickly in the limited time available.
    He snatched a sandwich before catching the train.
    He snatched a glimpse of her while her mother had her back turned.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter X, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      It was a joy to snatch some brief respite, and find himself in the rectory drawing–room. Listening here was as pleasant as talking; just to watch was pleasant. The young priests who lived here wore cassocks and birettas; their faces were fine and mild, yet really strong, like the rector's face; and in their intercourse with him and his wife they seemed to be brothers.
    • 1940 July, “Notes and News: A Magnificent Transport Achievement”, in Railway Magazine, page 419:
      No department of the Southern Railway escaped some share of the work involved, and the outdoor traffic and locomotive staffs in particular were engaged literally night and day, snatching a few hours' sleep as opportunity offered, until the task was completed.
    • 2019 November 21, Samanth Subramanian, “How our home delivery habit reshaped the world”, in The Guardian[1]:
      You might now reason that even a 12-minute walk to the store to buy a can of beans is too great an expenditure of time, and that the fee paid for one-hour delivery is a fair price to snatch those minutes back into your life.
    • 2022 December 14, David Turner, “The Edwardian Christmas getaway...”, in RAIL, number 972, page 35:
      In 1914, the Hendon and Finchley Times published a piece titled 'People who have no Christmas'. An engine-driver's comment was this: "For many years now I have never enjoyed a real Christmas. My engine has claimed me on this day, and my only regret is that I am not attached to a slow goods train, so that I could snatch time to eat some plum-pudding."

Derived terms[edit]



snatch (plural snatches)

  1. A quick grab or catch.
    The leftfielder makes a nice snatch to end the inning.
    • 1863, Sheridan Le Fanu, The House by the Churchyard:
      And he [] glared on the cold pistols that hung before him—ready for anything. And he took down one with a snatch and weighed it in his hand, and fell to thinking again; []
  2. A short period.
  3. (weightlifting) A competitive weightlifting event in which a barbell is lifted from the platform to locked arms overhead in a smooth continuous movement.
  4. A piece of some sound, usually music or conversation.
    I heard a snatch of Mozart as I passed the open window.
  5. (vulgar slang) The vulva. [from 18th c.][1]
    Synonyms: cunt, twat
    • 1962, Douglas Woolf, Wall to Wall, Grove Press, page 83:
      Claude, is it true what they say about Olovia? Of course she’s getting a little old for us—what about Marilyum, did you try her snatch?
    • 1985, Jackie Collins, Lucky[3], Simon and Schuster, →ISBN, page 150:
      Roughly Santino ripped the sheet from the bed, exposing all of her. She had blond hair on her snatch, which drove him crazy. He was partial to blondes.
    • 2004 July 11, Bayard Russell, nonemorecomic[4]:
      Dan: Hey, Ani, I found my keys! They were in my pocket.
      Ani: That's great, Dan! Of course, I've never lost mine.
      Dan: Really? Where do you keep yours?
      Ani: In my snatch!
    • 2008, Jim Craig, North to Disaster[5], Bushak Press, →ISBN, page 178:
      [] You want me to ask Brandy to let you paint her naked body with all this gooey stuff to make a mold of her snatch?”
  6. (aviation) Rapid, uncommanded jerking or oscillation of the ailerons of some aircraft at high Mach numbers, resulting from shock wave formation at transonic speeds.
  7. (dated) A brief period of exertion.
  8. (dated) A catching of the voice.
  9. (dated) A hasty snack; a bite to eat.
  10. (dated) A quibble.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Lambert, James. (2007). ‘Some Early Evidence for the Sexual Meaning of snatch.’ Comments on Etymology, Oct/Nov: 38–40.