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From Middle English sniffen, of imitative origin.



sniff (third-person singular simple present sniffs, present participle sniffing, simple past and past participle sniffed)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To make a short, audible inhalation, through the nose, as when smelling something.
    The dog sniffed around the park, searching for a nice scent.
    I sniffed the meat to see whether it had gone off.
  2. (transitive) To say (something) while sniffing, such as in case of illness or unhappiness, or in contempt.
    "He's never coming back, is he?" she sniffed while looking at a picture of him.
  3. (transitive) To perceive vaguely.
    • 1952, Isabelle Hughes, Lorena Telforth (page 223)
      I don't know, of course, what your precious Radicals are planning to do, and I don't want to know; but I can sniff trouble in the air, nevertheless.
  4. (intransitive) To pry; to investigate in an interfering manner.
    • 1882, Henry Herman, Henry Arthur Jones, The Silver King
      COOMBE: He got the clinch only last week — eighteen months. You see it's no good having anybody here as ain't got a unblemished character. We don't want to have the bluebottles come sniffing round here, do we?
  5. To be dismissive or contemptuous of something.
    This opportunity is not to be sniffed at.
  6. (computing) To intercept and analyse packets of data being transmitted over a network.
  7. (slang, chiefly UK) To inhale drugs (usually cocaine) through the nose, usually in powder form.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Hebrew: הִסְנִיף(hisníf)


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


sniff (countable and uncountable, plural sniffs)

  1. (countable) An instance of sniffing.
    She gave the flowers a quick sniff to check they were real.
  2. (countable) A quantity of something that is inhaled through the nose.
  3. (countable, colloquial) A brief perception, or tiny amount.
    • 2011 November 3, Chris Bevan, “Rubin Kazan 1 - 0 Tottenham”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Tottenham did have a sniff of goal when Defoe's drilled cross just eluded his strike partner at the far post but their best effort came early in the second half when Ryan Fredericks cut in from the right before firing into the side netting.
    • 2021 December 18, “The billionaire battle for the metaverse”, in The Economist[2], ISSN 0013-0613:
      Telecoms firms want a sniff, having invested heavily in ultra-fast, low-latency 5G spectrum.
  4. (uncountable, slang) Cocaine.
    • 2008, Tammy Anderson, Neither Villain nor Victim:
      He sold us some sniff and blow.




  1. A short inhalation sound, sometimes associated with crying.

Derived terms[edit]




sniff m (plural sniffs)

  1. (recreational drugs) sniff