AskDefine | Define snipe

Dictionary Definition



1 Old or New World straight-billed game bird of the sandpiper family; of marshy areas; similar to the woodcocks
2 a gunshot from a concealed location


1 hunt or shoot snipe
2 aim and shoot with great precision [syn: sharpshoot]
3 attack in speech or writing; "The editors of the left-leaning paper attacked the new House Speaker" [syn: attack, round, assail, lash out, assault]

User Contributed Dictionary



The verb, i.e. its original meaning "to sharpshoot", was first used by British troops in India in the 18th century in allusion to their hunting snipe as game.



snipe (plural: snipe or snipes)
  1. Any of various limicoline game birds of the family Scolopacidae, having a long, slender, nearly straight beak.
  2. A fool; a blockhead.
  3. A shot from a concealed place.
  4. italbrac naval slang A member of the Engineering Department on a ship.
  5. A bottle of wine containing 0.1875 liters of fluid, 1/4 the volume of a standard bottle; a quarter bottle or piccolo.


1. A bird of the family Scolopacidae.


See also


  1. To shoot at individuals from a concealed place.
  2. To make malicious, underhand remarks or attacks.
  3. To watch a timed online auction and place a winning bid at the last possible moment.

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

A Snipe is any of nearly 20 wading bird species in three genera in the family Scolopacidae. They are characterised by a very long slender bill and cryptic plumage. The Gallinago snipes have a nearly worldwide distribution, the Lymnocryptes Jack Snipe is restriced to Asia and Europe and the Coenocorypha snipes are restriced to New Zealand. The three species of painted snipe are not closely related to these, and are placed in their own family, the Rostratulidae.


Snipe in the family Scolopacidae belong either to the small genera Coenocorypha (the New Zealand snipes) and Lymnocryptes, or to the about 15 typical snipes in the genus Gallinago. The latter are toy closest relatives of the woodcocks , whereas the small genera represent earlier divergences in the snipe/woodcock clade (Thomas et al., 2004). They search for invertebrates in the mud with a "sewing-machine" action of their long bills.
Most have distinctive displays, usually given at dawn or dusk.
English manuscripts dating from the 15th century indicate that the bird was originally called a "snyte" (Austin, 1888).

Linguistic Inspiration

The elusive nature of the snipe is well-known among hunters. In the days of market hunting, the most skilled hunters of all would often bring many Common Snipe to market earning the nickname "sniper" as a badge of respect for the difficulty in shooting this bird. The term has evolved into the modern usage sniper, referring to a skilled anti-personnel military sharpshooter.
A common form of prank is the "Snipe hunt," in which the victim is given the description of a creature and some ridiculous means of catching it. The object is simply to make the naїve individual (usually a newcomer to a tightly-knit working crew) look foolish for attempting it, and perhaps keep him or her at it as long as possible. However, while the name of the prank is most likely related to the actual Snipe, the creature described is almost always fictional. These "Snipes" are usually granted traits which either make the victim look more foolish for believing it could exist, or lend some form of credence to the foolish means of capture.



  • McKelvie, Colin Laurie : Woodcock and Snipe: Conservation and Sport (Swan Hill, 1993)
  • Thomas, Gavin H.; Wills, Matthew A. & Székely, Tamás (2004): A supertree approach to shorebird phylogeny. BMC Evol. Biol. 4: 28. PDF fulltext Supplementary Material
  • Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888

External links

snipe in Bulgarian: Бекасови
snipe in German: Schnepfenvögel
snipe in Esperanto: Galinago
snipe in French: Gallinago
snipe in Polish: Bekasy
snipe in Swedish: Beckasiner
snipe in Dutch: Snip
snipe in Chinese: 鷸屬

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aim at, attack, barrage, blast, blitz, bombard, cannon, cannonade, carp at, charge, cock, commence firing, criticize, deride, detonate, discharge, drop, eject, enfilade, fell, fire, fire a volley, fire at, fire off, fire upon, fusillade, gun, gun for, hit, knock, let fly, let off, load, mortar, open fire, open up on, pan, pelt, pepper, pick off, pistol, plug, pop at, pot, potshoot, potshot, prime, rake, rap, riddle, shell, shoot, shoot at, shoot down, slam, snipe at, strafe, strike, take a potshot, take aim at, torpedo, zero in on
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