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A Wilson’s snipe (limicoline bird), Gallinago delicata.


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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English snipe, snype (a type of bird), from Old Norse snípa, as in mýrisnípa(moor snipe).

The verb originated in the 1770s among soldiers in British India where a hunter skilled enough to kill the elusive snipe was dubbed a "sniper".[1] The term sniper was first attested in 1824 in the sense of the word "sharpshooter".[1]


snipe ‎(plural snipes)

  1. (plural: snipes or snipe) Any of various limicoline game birds of the genera Gallinago, Lymnocryptes and Coenocorypha in the family Scolopacidae, having a long, slender, nearly straight beak.
  2. A fool; a blockhead.
    • c. 1603, William Shakespeare, Othello, Act I, scene 3, line 390:
      For I mine own gained knowledge should profane,/ If I would time expend with such a snipe,/ But for my sport and profit.
  3. A shot fired from a concealed place.
  4. (naval slang) A member of the engineering department on a ship.
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]


snipe ‎(third-person singular simple present snipes, present participle sniping, simple past and past participle sniped)

  1. (intransitive) To hunt snipe.
    • 1883, Charles Hallock, The Sportsman's Gazetteer and General Guide: The Game Animals, Bird and Fishes of North America; Their Habits and Various Methods of Capture, revised edition:
      The pleasures of Bay bird shooting should not be spoken of in the same sentence with cocking or sniping.
  2. (intransitive) To shoot at individuals from a concealed place.
  3. (intransitive) (by extension) To shoot with a sniper rifle.
  4. (transitive) To watch a timed online auction and place a winning bid against (the current high bidder) at the last possible moment.
    • 2003, "Weird Al" Yankovic, eBay (song)
      I am the type who is liable to snipe you
      With two seconds left to go, whoa.
  5. (transitive) To nose (a log) to make it drag or slip easily in skidding.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Probably from snip or a cognate


snipe ‎(plural snipes)

  1. (slang) A cigarette butt.
  2. An animated promotional logo during a television show.
  3. A strip of copy announcing some late breaking news or item of interest, typically placed in a print advertisement in such a way that it stands out from the ad.
  4. A bottle of wine measuring 0.1875 liters, one fourth the volume of a standard bottle; a quarter bottle or piccolo.

Etymology 3[edit]

Either from sneap or a figurative development from Etymology 1


snipe ‎(plural snipes)

  1. A sharp, clever answer; sarcasm.


snipe ‎(third-person singular simple present snipes, present participle sniping, simple past and past participle sniped)

  1. (intransitive) To make malicious, underhand remarks or attacks.
    • 2013 May 23, Sarah Lyall, "British Leader’s Liberal Turn Sets Off a Rebellion in His Party," New York Times (retrieved 29 May 2013):
      Capitalizing on the restive mood, Mr. Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader, took out an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph this week inviting unhappy Tories to defect. In it Mr. Farage sniped that the Cameron government — made up disproportionately of career politicians who graduated from Eton and Oxbridge — was “run by a bunch of college kids, none of whom have ever had a proper job in their lives.”

External links[edit]

  • snipe in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911



  1. 1.0 1.1 “Snipe”, in Online Etymology Dictionary[1], accessed 2011-04-01