origin unknown

First Known Use: 1724

The origins of “snaffle” are shrouded in mystery. What we know of its story begins in the 16th century — at that time, “snaffle” existed as both a noun referring to a simple bit for a horse’s bridle and a verb meaning “to fit or equip with a snaffle” or “to restrain or check with or as if with a snaffle.” The noun could be from an old German word for mouth, “snavel”. (snavel (third-person singular simple present snavelspresent participle snavellingsimple past and past participle snavelled)

  1. To steal, to pickpocket.
  2. (AustraliaNew Zealand) To snatch.
    Paul tried to snavel Dan′s chair from under him.)

The “obtain” meaning of the verb appeared in the early 18th century, and its origins are similarly elusive. A 1699 dictionary entered “snaffle” with the definition “a Highwayman that has got Booty” — that’s a logical derivative of the verb, but it is also unconfirmed.


According to Wiki:

The verb snaffle is a British colloquialism. Born on the croquet lawns of Oxford, it was originally coined as a reference to a technically illegal double hit to put a ball through the hoop at close range from an angle that would not be possible with a normal shot.

The word has since entered into the common lexicon to refer to a cheeky act: an act that, although technically politically incorrect or controversial, is endearing and acceptable. A snaffle is also a tale or a lie and a snaffler is a duplicitous con artist. The Oxford English Dictionary defines this latter use of the word as: verb (informal) “to illicitly take for oneself”. That is, to pinch or nick, usually in a cheeky fashion.

Historically to Snaffle may also mean to simultaneously sniff and lick and object.