Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology Cite this entry

SNIFTER, v., n. Also sniffter, snifther (Uls.); snufter; sniffer. [′snɪftər]

I. v. 1. (1) intr. To sniff, in gen. (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, s.v. snokis, 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); to snivel, snuffle, with a nose cold (Sc. 1808 Jam.), or through tears, to blubber; to snort, snore (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173). Gen.Sc. Also in Eng. dial.; to show contempt, be supercilious. Sc. 1719 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 127:
Gin I can snifter thro' Mundungus.
Rnf. a.1794 A. Wilson Poems (1876) II. 41, 319:
Nae sniftering' dog had he . . . Or else some sniftering, snivelling, ill-clad loon, Wha wadna hae the heart a cat to droon.
Sc. 1823 W. Tennant Card. Beaton 89:
Now i' their beds, snifterin', snocherin', an' sleepin' like taps.
Slk. 1835 Hogg Tales (1874) 554:
I was obliged to . . . snifter like a whipped boy.
Gsw. 1863 J. Young Ingle Nook 92:
The nasty, clatty, fiery stuff, It gart me snifter, hotch, an' puff.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xvi.:
The worthy goodwife . . . told her to “wash her face, an' nae mair o' that snifterin.”
Ags. 1879 J. Guthrie Poems 18:
The smell o' girse the kye noo snifter up.
Fif. 1882 J. Simson Inverkeithing 17:
I was “snifftering” (snuffing up when there is nothing to snuff up).
Ayr. 1889 H. Johnston Glenbuckie 69:
Dinna sit there sniftering, as if ye had ony doubts aboot me.
Ags. 1914 J. Bell Country Clash 74:
Popularity's no' to be sniftered at.
Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 132:
They saw she wasn't sniftering or weeping.
Abd. 1941 C. Gavin Black Milestone xiii.:
I'm nae for Mary and Fanny snifterin' here onywey.

(2) tr. To utter (words) in a whining, snuffling tone. Sc. 1884 W. Grant Christ our Hope xx.:
Sniftering out his words with the quaintest, queerest accent.

2. Of wind: to blow in strong gusts, to blast (Sh. 1971), vbl.n. snifteran, exposure to the blast (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173); of steam, vapour, etc.: to billow out, escape in clouds. Kcd. 1932 L. G. Gibbon Sunset Song 19:
When he was real drunk and the fairlies came sniftering out of the whisky bottles at him.
Sh. 1952 J. Hunter Taen wi da Trow 189:
Dey aa noo rin wi reebs o steam Snifterin in guffs fae each behint.

II. n. 1. A sniff, a noisy inhalation through the nostrils (Cai. 1904 E.D.D.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1953 Traynor), indicative of a cold or of some emotion, grief, surprise, disdain or suppressed laughter, a snivel, whimper, snigger, etc. Gen.Sc.; a snort (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173). Slk. 1828 Hogg Poems (1874) 309:
The palfrey dash'd o'er the bounding wave, With snifter and with stenne.
Dmb. 1844 W. Cross Disruption iii.:
A kind of smothered laugh, such as is in our expressive vernacular is called a snifter.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin xxxv.:
I had need o' a snifter o' caller air.
Ags. 1894 J. B. Salmond B. Bowden (1899) 144:
He took a look round at me an' gae a kind o' a snufter.
Hdg. 1908 J. Lumsden Th' Loudons 168:
We scour'd the lift wi' scarce a sniffer.
Bnff. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (29 May) 5:
The snifters and ohs came spasmodically and very audibly.
Uls. 1929 M. Mulcaghey Ballymulcaghey 92:
If ye cud give a wee snifter of a cry.

2. A cold in the head with a running nose, a catarrh, most freq. in pl. with def. art., a severe cold, a stuffed nose (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924); Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.Sc.; also a disease of poultry and other animals with sim. symptoms. Dim. sniftery. Sc. 1826 Edb. Corporation Pack of Hounds MS. 15:
Catarrhall affections of the head and snifters prevail.
Sc. 1837 J. W. Carlyle Letters (Froude 1883) I. 71:
The blessedness of having a head clear of snifters.
Sc. 1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm II. 260:
The snifters, that is, a discharge of matter from the nose, which causes a noise in the nose like stifled breathing [in fowls].
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 19:
The tane de'ed wi' the rickets, an' the tither wi' the snifters.
Abd. 1929 Weekly Journal (21 Feb.) 6:
A bit sniftery o' a caul'.

3. A strong blast, gust, flurry, as of driving wind, rain, sleet, etc., esp. thought of as buffeting the face (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Per. 1904 E.D.D.; Uls. 1953 Traynor Gl.; I. and ne.Sc., Ags., Lth. 1971). Also in n.Eng. dial.; in 1741 quot., a blast of gunfire. Cf. nizzer, nizzin, s.v. Niz. Sc. 1741 Caled. Mercury (20 Jan.):
Though the Spaniards fired several great and small shot, yet the bold young Fellows, despising the Spanish snifters, boarded and took the Brigantine.
Abd. 1778 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 39:
Wi' weet an' wind sae tyte into my teeth. . . . I manna ilka day be coming here To get sick snifters [1768, sniflers].
Edb. 1828 M. & M. Corbett Tales & Leg. III. 56:
Your father will get a sair snifter coming by the Whistling Cleugh.
Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 173:
He got a gey snifter gain' our the muir.
Slk. 1875 Border Treasury (10 April) 418:
I gat sic a snifter! I was clean blindit wi' drift.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 52:
He began tae grue ap a brave snifter o' wind.
wm.Sc. 1934 K. R. Archer Jock Tamson's Bairns 45:
An' a snifter o' the snows, Whan ye face the autumn breeze.

4. A violent purging of the bowels (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.).

5. Fig. A check, a shock, a reverse, a rebuff, a snub, a quarrel (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. c.1840 W. Lutton Montiaghisms (1924); Abd. 1917; Bwk. 1942 Wettstein; Rxb. 1942 Zai, Rxb. 1971). Also in Eng. dial. Rxb. 1806 J. Hogg Poems 112:
But, Monseer, ye'd better no come here awa, Lest ye meet with a snifter ye'll no like ava.
s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 246:
We gae them a snifter, an roun' aye for roun' We' the axe o' King Bruce, and the Sword o' Rob Roy.

[Mid.Eng. snyfter, to snuffle, a freq. form of *snift, of imit. orig. Cf. Dan. †snifte, Swed. snyfta. The form Snift above however appears much later and is therefore presumably a new back-formation and not a survival.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Snifter v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 6 Dec 2021 <>



Try an Advanced Search

Browse SND: