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IPA(key): /wɪf/

  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪf

Etymology 1[edit]

(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


whiff (plural whiffs)

  1. A waft; a brief, gentle breeze; a light gust of air
  2. An odour carried briefly through the air
    • 2006 July 27, Hardball, MSNBC:
      ...everyone has always known, widely promiscuous heterosexual men have, as I say, a whiff of the bathhouse about them.
    • 1922, Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room Chapter 2
      A whiff of rotten eggs had vanquished the pale clouded yellows which came pelting across the orchard and up Dods Hill and away on to the moor []
  3. A short inhalation or exhalation of breath, especially of smoke from a cigarette or pipe.
  4. (figuratively) A slight sign of something; a glimpse.
    • 2012, Ben Smith, Leeds United 2-1 Everton [1]
      This was a rare whiff of the big-time for a club whose staple diet became top-flight football for so long—the glamour was in short supply, however. Thousands of empty seats and the driving Yorkshire rain saw to that.
    • 2012, Frank Underwood, House of Cards
      I can tell you first-hand that we are dealing with a regime that is not being forthright and will seize upon the faintest whiff of trepidation. This is a test to see how far they can push us before we breake.
  5. (baseball) A strike (from the batter’s perspective)
  6. (golf) An attempted shot that completely misses the ball.
  7. The megrim, a fish: Lepidorhombus boscii or Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis.
Derived terms[edit]


whiff (third-person singular simple present whiffs, present participle whiffing, simple past and past participle whiffed)

  1. (transitive) To waft; to throw out in whiffs.
    • 1918, Charles Wellington Furlong, "Climbing the Shoulders of Atlas", in Harper's Monthly Magazine, page 433:
      [] to face the same bitter, westerly wind which searched our marrow as it tore over the world. It whiffed by us steam and sulphurous vapors from the caldron []
  2. To carry or convey by a whiff, or as by a whiff; to puff or blow away.
  3. (colloquial) To have or give off a strong, unpleasant smell.
    • 2007, Walker, Chris, Stalker!, →ISBN, page 31:
      The second trauma was sharing a boat with all the foreigners who were beginning to whiff somewhat and had things crawling out of their beards, having spent days on end reaching the ferry on their bikes.
  4. (transitive) To sniff.
    • 1891, "A Grain of Gold", in The Arena, page 631:
      [He], going farther away, whiffed at the pleasant odor of the grape blooms, waved his hand to the roses, in farewell, perhaps, lifted his face []
  5. To consume in whiffs; to puff.
    • 1914, Eva Emery Dye, The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark, page 90:
      There was silence as they whiffed at the council pipes. Then a tall chief arose and glanced at the handful of whites and at his own three hundred along the walls of the council house.
  6. To miss:
    1. (intransitive, baseball) To strike out.
    2. (golf) To miss the ball completely.
    3. (slang) To attempt to strike and miss, especially being off-balance/vulnerable after missing.
  7. (slang) To fail spectacularly at a task.
  8. (slang, dated, transitive) To kill; to assassinate.
    • 1944, William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman, The Big Sleep (screenplay)
      The trouble is he wasn't alone when you whiffed him.


whiff (comparative more whiff, superlative most whiff)

  1. (colloquial) Having a strong or unpleasant odor.
    • 2002: Jim Rozen, Way oil in rec.crafts.metalworking
      Whoo boy that gear oil is pretty whiff. If you actually do this, spend the extra money for the synthetic gear oil as it will not have as bad a sulfur stink as the regular stuff.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Related to whip.


whiff (third-person singular simple present whiffs, present participle whiffing, simple past and past participle whiffed)

  1. To fish with a handline.