Definition of sneak in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /sniːk/

verb (past and past participle sneaked or informal, chiefly North American snuck /snʌk/)

1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Move or go in a furtive or stealthy way: I sneaked out by the back exit
More example sentences
  • But if you are a chameleon, you can sneak in and move ahead with the furtiveness required in one-day cricket.
  • As her group moved forward, she snuck behind a building and waited for the footsteps of her group to fade away.
  • She sneaks upstairs and moves through the hall way to her room.
creep, slink, steal, slip, slide, sidle, edge, move furtively, tiptoe, pussyfoot, pad, prowl
1.1 [with object and adverbial of direction] Convey (someone or something) in a furtive or stealthy way: someone sneaked a camera inside
More example sentences
  • If you're riding a hold-up horse or a doubtful stayer you have to sneak him round, taking the shortest route around the inside and keeping him as relaxed and switched-off as possible.
  • I'm glad I snuck him some steak juice off the plate tonight.
  • I later learned that if he had kept quiet about having the puppy, my dad could have snuck her onto the plane with him.
bring/take surreptitiously, bring/take secretly, bring/take illicitly, smuggle, spirit, slip
1.2 [with object] Do or obtain (something) in a stealthy or furtive way: she sneaked a glance at her watch
More example sentences
  • From this new position, he sneaks covert glances across the aisle at her soft profile.
  • Her voice died out and she snuck a glance back toward the wanderer, his eyes were still on the road ahead showing no expressions.
  • He resumed his eye-search of the room, and snuck a glance back at the short blonde girl he'd noticed earlier.
snatch, take a furtive/stealthy/surreptitious …, get furtively/stealthily/surreptitiously, steal
1.3 (sneak up on) Creep up on (someone) without being detected: he sneaks up on us slyly
More example sentences
  • We carefully snuck up on the enemies, creeping through the backyards of each house.
  • What was with all these creeps sneaking up on me?
  • She wondered if it was better to know, or better to be snuck up on.
2 [no object] British informal (Especially in children’s use) inform an adult or person in authority of a companion’s misdeeds; tell tales: she sneaked on us
More example sentences
  • What seems to have happened then is that someone sneaked to the authorities.
inform (on/against), act as an informer, tell tales (on), report, give someone away, be disloyal (to), sell someone out, stab someone in the back
informal squeal (on), rat (on), blow the whistle (on), peach (on), snitch (on), put the finger on, sell someone down the river, stitch someone up
British informal grass (on), split (on), shop
Scottish informal clype (on)
North American informal rat someone out, finger, fink on, drop a/the dime on
Australian informal pimp on, pool, put someone's pot on


1British (Especially in children’s use) someone who informs an adult or person in authority of a companion’s misdeeds; a telltale: Ethel was the form sneak and goody-goody
More example sentences
  • The sneak from behind the bicycle shed is preparing his most squalid betrayal of Britain yet.
  • Biographers were ever the under-belly of the literary world, patronised because they weren't epic poets or triple-decker novelists, and demonised as gossips and sneaks.
  • Now he was a great big, ugly, bucktoothed guy, a real creepola, with sneaky eyes and, you guessed it, a well-earned reputation for being a sneak.
informer, betrayer, stool pigeon
informal snitch, finger, squealer, rat, whistle-blower, nose
British informal grass, supergrass, nark, snout
Scottish informal clype
Scottish & Northern Irish informal tout
North American informal fink, stoolie
Australian informal fizgig, pimp, shelf
archaic intelligencer, beagle
1.1A furtive and contemptible person: he was branded a prying sneak for eavesdropping on intimate conversation
More example sentences
  • Junkies are three things: liars, hypocrites and sneaks.
  • I won't hide a murderer and I won't tolerate a liar and a sneak on my ship.
  • Only then did I start to really get mad at him for being such a sneak, such a liar.
2 (usually sneaks) North American short for sneaker.
Example sentences
  • Some like high-cut sneaks while others prefer low-cut ones.
  • All those flouncy skirts, matching tops, jazzy sneaks, and bouncy hairdos are enough to lure even the laziest girl off the couch.
  • Truth is, these sneaks can take you from the gym to a night out on the town, as long as you know how to wear them.


Acting or done surreptitiously, unofficially, or without warning: a sneak thief a sneak preview
More example sentences
  • Police in North Yorkshire today issued a warning to residents to be on guard for sneak thieves during the hot weather.
  • Many who saw the new models at a sneak preview will have been surprised by the changing interface between driver and machine.
  • Come for a sneak preview on our initial findings!
furtive, secret, stealthy, sly, surreptitious, clandestine, covert;
private, quick, surprise


The traditional standard past form of sneak is sneaked ( she sneaked round the corner). An alternative past form, snuck ( she snuck past me), arose in the US in the 19th century. Until very recently snuck was confined to US dialect use and was regarded as non-standard. However, in the last few decades its use has spread in the US, where it is now regarded as a standard alternative to sneaked in all but the most formal contexts. In the Oxford English Corpus there are now more US citations for snuck than there are for sneaked, and there is evidence of snuck gaining ground in British English also.


Late 16th century: probably dialect; perhaps related to obsolete snike 'to creep'.

Words that rhyme with sneak

antique, batik, beak, bespeak, bezique, bleak, boutique, cacique, caïque, cheek, chic, clique, creak, creek, critique, Dominique, eke, freak, geek, Greek, hide-and-seek, keek, Lalique, leak, leek, Martinique, meek, midweek, Mozambique, Mustique, mystique, oblique, opéra comique, ortanique, peak, Peake, peek, physique, pique, pratique, reek, seek, shriek, Sikh, sleek, speak, Speke, squeak, streak, teak, technique, tongue-in-cheek, tweak, unique, veronique, weak, week, wreak

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sneak

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.