Intermediate+ Word of the Day: snap

snap (verb, noun) /snæp/ LISTEN

A woman snapping a selfie

To snap means ‘to make a sudden cracking sound,’ ‘to break something with a cracking sound,’ or ‘to move or strike with a loud noise.’ To snap is also ‘to speak sharply’ or ‘to lose control.’ As a noun, a snap is a sudden sound from something breaking or striking something. It can also be a short period of time or, informally, a quick and easy task.

Example sentences

  • Tom realized someone was behind him when he heard the snap of a twig.
  • The strong winds snapped the old branch in half.
  • Elizabeth snapped the lid of the box shut.
  • I asked her what was wrong, but she just snapped at me.
  • The pressure got too much for Jeremy and, finally, he snapped.
  • The snap of the door closing woke Nell from her sleep.
  • We had a snap of cold weather just after Christmas.
  • Robert is so lucky; learning new languages is a snap for him.

Words often used with snap

Snap is also when you make a snapping noise with your fingers, usually by striking two fingers on the same hand together. We can say just snap, or snap your fingers. Example: “It is rude to snap (or, snap your fingers) at waiters when you want to get their attention.” Snap is also the noun for this movement of your fingers. For example, “With a snap of his fingers, the magician made my wish come true.”

snap something up: to grab something quickly or before anyone else can. Example: “When she saw how cheap the shoes were, Joyce snapped them up.”

snap out of something: make an effort to pull yourself out of a mood or attitude. Example: “You need to snap out of your daydreaming and do some work, if you want to pass your exams!” (We also often say just “Snap out of it!”)

snap decision, snap judgment: a decision or judgment made quickly and without much thought. Example: “The old lady made a snap judgment about her granddaughter’s boyfriend as soon as she met him and she never changed her mind.”

In pop culture

Snap is the name of a German Eurodance group. You can listen to one of their biggest hits, “Rhythm is a Dancer,” released in 1992 here:

Did you know?

A snap is also an informal word for a photograph, short for “snapshot,” and can be used as a verb to mean ‘to take photographs.’ Examples: “I have some snaps from my holiday; would you like to see them?” “The photographers were all snapping photos of the stars as they arrived at the premiere.”


Other forms

snapless (adjective), snappable (adjective), snappingly (adverb)


Snap, meaning ‘a quick, sudden bite or cut,’ dates back to the late 15th century, and came into English from the Dutch or Low German verb snappen (to bite), and is probably derived from or related to the Middle Dutch or Middle Low German noun snavel (bill or beak), from the West Germanic snu-, a root work of imitative origin that forms words related to the nose, such as the English snout. The original sense evolved to mean ‘a sudden, sharp sound’ by the early 16th century. The sense ‘quick movement’ first appeared in the early 17th century, while ‘a sudden spell of weather’ dates back to the mid-18th century. The figurative sense, ‘something that can be done easily,’ first appeared in the late 19th century, and snap, short for snap-shot has been used as a colloquial term for a photograph since the 1890s. Snap has also been used as an adjective, especially in phrases such as ‘snap decision’ or ‘snap justice’ since the late 18th century. As a verb meaning ‘to make a quick bite’ (usually said of animals), snap dates back to the early 16th century, and comes from the noun. The sense ‘to break suddenly and sharply’ first appeared around the year 1600, ‘to come into place’ is from the late 18th century, and ‘to take a photograph’ was first used in the late 19th century. The expression ‘snap your fingers’ first appeared in the mid-17th century.

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