There are 2 main definitions of whiff in English:


Line breaks: whiff
Pronunciation: /wɪf


1A smell that is only smelt briefly or faintly: I caught a whiff of eau de cologne
More example sentences
  • She climbed in the window with ease and as she approached the stairs she caught a whiff of perfume not belonging to Mrs. Chavez.
  • He caught a whiff of her hair; it smelled like citrus.
  • He heard faint movements, and caught a whiff of perfume.
faint smell, brief smell, trace, sniff, scent, odour, aroma
1.1 [in singular] British informal An unpleasant smell.
More example sentences
  • Plus an unpleasant whiff of effluent as in the previous week's remorseless attacks on Cherie Blair, not for anything she's said or done but for the way she looks.
  • The smell, however, lingered on for a while and despite the baking sunshine, at week's end there still was a whiff of unpleasantness in the air.
  • After all, who hasn't found themselves in the middle of a favourite movie only to catch a whiff of some foul miasma making its way merrily up your nostrils?
British informal pong, niff, hum
British rhyming slang pen and ink
Scottish informal guff
North American informal funk
rare fetor, malodour, mephitis, noisomeness
1.2 [in singular] An act of sniffing or inhaling: I found my inhaler and took a deep whiff
More example sentences
  • I looked to Cory, who was seated in the front of the boat, holding his fingers to his nose and taking a deep whiff.
  • I stepped into the shop, took a deep whiff of the powerful chocolate and sugar scents, and studied the pastry case.
  • He took a deep whiff of the salty sea air and sighed.
1.3 [in singular] A trace or hint of something bad, menacing, or exciting: there had been a whiff of financial scandal in the past
More example sentences
  • The word itself suggests scandal, a whiff of alterity: pornography.
  • In danger of losing the whiff of exclusivity, haute couture is relying on the power of the lens to preserve the magic that put Christian Dior's name up in lights more than 50 years ago
  • For all the whiff of street danger, this is a notably wussy, non-violent picture.
trace, hint, note, suggestion, impression, suspicion, soupçon, touch, nuance, intimation, trifle, drop, dash, tinge, tincture, streak, vein, shred, crumb, shadow, breath, whisper, air, savour, flavour, element, overtone, scintilla, jot, bit, spot, speck, iota
informal smidgen, tad
2A puff or breath of air or smoke: whiffs of smoke emerged from the boiler
More example sentences
  • It puffed a whiff of smoke and crouched down to their level.
  • What with the puffs and whiffs of transparent smoke escaping in and out of every outlet and or pore of my body.
  • The servants disappeared as if they were whiffs of smoke blown away by the wind.
puff, gust, blast, rush, flurry, gale, breath, draught, waft
3North American informal (Chiefly in baseball or golf) an unsuccessful attempt to hit the ball.
More example sentences
  • Expect a lot of foul balls and whiffs until you adjust to the speed.
  • Questioned about his 43 whiffs in 250 at-bats, Furcal says strikeouts are part of the game.
  • The big righthander had been working on a streak of five outings of 10 or more whiffs, including back-to-back games of 15 strikeouts heading into his start vs. Arizona.


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1 [with object] Get a brief or faint smell of: he whiffed the broth that was simmering on the stove
More example sentences
  • We all smiled as we whiffed the scent of the baking cookies.
  • I walked in the front yard and whiffed the various aromas that were filtering through my nose.
1.1 [no object] British informal Give off an unpleasant smell: she whiffed of nicotine
More example sentences
  • As I looked at him a whiff of excrement passed my face, as if it came from his open mouth.
2 [no object] North American informal (Chiefly in baseball or golf) try unsuccessfully to hit the ball.
More example sentences
  • Most of the time the fielders are just standing around while the batters are whiffing and, all of a sudden, the fielder makes an error on a ground ball because he is not ready.
  • In his 14-year career, he whiffed only 114 times, fewer times than many of today's hitters strike out in one season.
  • The strikeout numbers stayed low, with Barry never whiffing 70 times in a season.


late 16th century (originally in the senses 'gust of wind' and 'inhalation of tobacco smoke', also, as a verb, 'blow with a slight gust'): imitative.

Definition of whiff in: