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 snavels, present participle snavelling, simple past and past participle snavelled)
- To steal, to pickpocket.
- (Australia, New 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.