snout

Definitions

Agriculture

  • noun the nose and mouth of some animals, including the pig

Slang

  • noun a paid police informer. ‘Nose’ was used to denote a police spy or informer and so were slang synonyms such as nark, snitch and snout. Snout is of more recent origin than the other terms, dating from between the world wars.
  • noun tobacco, a cigarette. The use of snout to mean tobacco dates from the end of the 19th century when it originated among prison inmates. It was inspired by convicts touching their noses, either while cupping a surreptitious smoke or as a silent sign requesting tobacco. (The explanations are not mutually exclusive, one may have given rise to the other.) In the 1950s the use of ‘a snout’ for a cigarette became widespread in working-class speech.
  • verb to inform, especially regularly in return for pay. The verb is derived from the earlier noun form.

Origin & History of “snout”

Snout and snot (14th c.) are very close etymologically. both go back ultimately to a prehistoric Germanic base *snut-or *snūt-, source also of obsolete English snite ‘wipe or pick one’s nose’, German schneuzen ‘blow one’s nose’, and German schnauze ‘snout’ (whence English schnauzer ‘German breed of dog’ (20th c.)). The colloquial snoot ‘nose’ (19th c.) is an alteration of snout, and formed the basis of the adjective snooty (20th c.) (the underlying idea being of holding one’s ‘nose’ in the air in a superior way).
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