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Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for November 16, 2020 is:

snivel • SNIV-ul  • verb

1 : to run at the nose

2 : to snuff mucus up the nose audibly : snuffle

3 : to cry or whine with snuffling

4 : to speak or act in a whining, sniffling, tearful, or weakly emotional manner


“Leonard … really wanted to meet the Microsoft co-founder.… It didn’t go so great, as Leonard lost his cool and sniveled all over Gates’ tie.” — Kurt Schlosser, GeekWire, 29 Mar. 2018

“‘It says single women aged 45 and older are barely visible and at the bottom of the food chain for dating and relationships,’ I sniveled into the phone to a close friend, reading aloud from the blog I had found.” — Jennifer Byrne, The Guardian, 20 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

There’s never been anything pretty about sniveling. Snivel, which originally meant simply “to have a runny nose,” was probably snyflan in Old English. It’s likely related to sniffle, not surprisingly, and also to an Old English word for mucus, snofl. It’s even related to the Middle Dutch word for a cold, snof, and the Old Norse word for “snout,” which is snoppa. There’s also a connection to nan, a Greek verb meaning “flow.” Nowadays, we mostly use snivel as we have since the 1600s: to refer to self-pitying whining, whether or not such sniveling is accompanied by unchecked nasal flow.

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Ken Saunders

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