squib (noun, verb) /skwɪb/ LISTEN
A squib is a small firework, consisting of a tube or ball filled with powder, that burns with a hissing noise terminated usually by a slight explosion, or a firecracker broken in the middle so that it burns with a hissing noise but does not explode. A squib is also a short and witty piece of writing or remark, usually a sarcastic one, although this meaning is now dated. In US English, a squib is a short newspaper story used as a filler, though it has also fallen out of use, and in Australian English, squib is a slang term for a coward. As a verb, squib is uncommon, but it can mean ‘to shoot a squib firework,’ ‘to explode with a small sharp sound,’ ‘to write squibs,’ or in Australia, ‘to behave in a cowardly way.’
- People were celebrating in the streets, drinking and letting off squibs.
- The author penned a squib against the politician.
- The editor inserted a few squibs to fill the space.
- When Bruce refused to ride the horse, Shane called him a squib.
- The youngsters were squibbing.
- I heard a firecracker squib outside.
- The writer squibbed as a way of taking revenge on her enemies.
- Lauren said she'd speak to the boss about everyone getting a raise, but she squibbed.
Words often used with squib
damp squib: something that doesn’t live up to expectations. Example: “According to the studio hype, it was supposed to be the best movie of all time, but it turned out to be a damp squib.’
In pop culture
In the Harry Potter books and movies, a squib is someone who is born into a magical family, but who has no magical power of their own. You can learn more about squibs and the difficulties they face in this video:
Did you know?
In American football, a squib (or squib kick) is a short, low kick at kick-off, as well as to kick a ball in this way. Because this type of kick is unexpected, it usually forces the other team to scramble to get the ball as it bounces off the ground, rather than allowing a clean catch by a fast runner, and gives the kicking team some time to arrange their defense.
Squib dates back to the early 16th century, but its origin is completely unknown. Linguists can’t even agree on whether the writing or the firecracker sense came first. If it was the latter, then squib may have originated as an imitation of the sound broken firecrackers make.