From Middle English snell (“quick, fast”) from Old English snel, snell (“lively, quick”) from Proto-West Germanic *snell, from Proto-Germanic *snellaz (“active, swift, brisk”). Akin to Old Saxon snel, snell (“active, strenuous”), Dutch snel, Old High German snel (whence German schnell (“quick, swift”), Yiddish שנעל (shnel, “quick, swift”), Italian snello (“quick, nimble”), Old French esnel, isnel (“snell”), and Occitan isnel, irnel (“snell”)), Old Norse snjallr (“skilful, excellent”) (whence Danish snild (“clever”)).
snell (comparative sneller, superlative snellest)
(now chiefly Scotland)
- Quick, smart; sharp, active, brisk or nimble; lively.
- 1720, Allan Ramsay, Edinburgh's Salutation to Lord Carnarvon:
- That in ilk action, wise and snell / You may shaw Manly fire.
- 1852, John Brown, Rab and his Friends:
- That horny-handed, snell, peremptory little man.
- 1889, James Robertson, The Early Religion of Israel:
- Amos is a lithe, keen, snell man.
- Quick-witted; clever.
- 1861, John Brown, Horæ Subsecivæ:
- With all this heavy artillery, somewhat slow and cumbrous, on great questions, he had no want, when he was speaking off-hand, of quick, snell remark, often witty and full of spirit, and often too unexpected, like lightning—flashing, smiting, and gone.
- Harsh, severe, or stinging.
- 1833, Michael Scott, Tom Cringle's Log:
- Conscience is a rough lad, I grant you, and I am keen and snell also; but never mind, take his advice, and you’ll be some credit to your freens yet, ye scoonrel.
- 1881, Robert Buchanan, God and the Man:
- Fortunately, we were well prepared for such an emergency, and being sheltered in a safe creek, we roofed the ship with canvas against the snow; and so, with land on every side of us, plenty of moss fuel ashore, a good stock of provisions, and firearms for hunting, we held our trouble, and passed the snell season without the loss of a single soul aboard.
snell (comparative more snell, superlative most snell)
- Alternative form of snelly
snell (plural snells)
- A short line of horsehair, gut, monofilament, etc., by which a fishhook or lure is attached to a longer (and usually heavier) line.
- 1979, Cormac McCarthy, Suttree, Random House, page 194:
- He tied on new baited snells and recovered the current with the oars.
snell (third-person singular simple present snells, present participle snelling, simple past and past participle snelled)
- To tie a hook to the end of a fishing line with a snell knot.
- Can you show me how to snell a hook?
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