Definition of whiff in English:



  • 1A smell that is only smelled briefly or faintly.

    ‘I caught a whiff of peachy perfume’
    • ‘Something in her gut gave a sharp tug when she caught a whiff of his cologne.’
    • ‘A seductive whiff of spruce, roses and wood smoke leads you to her front door.’
    • ‘It was a glorious autumnal day - the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky and only the slightest whiff of a breeze.’
    • ‘I leaned over him and caught a whiff of his subtle cologne.’
    • ‘She climbed in the window with ease and as she approached the stairs she caught a whiff of perfume not belonging to Mrs. Chavez.’
    • ‘In the absence of the traditional gale, the course is easier than any of these pros have ever seen it, soft and receptive with not a whiff of wind in the air.’
    • ‘He heard faint movements, and caught a whiff of perfume.’
    • ‘Apparently the merest whiff of a grease-infused treat can harden body parts other than the arteries.’
    • ‘In an attempt to take in as much of him as I could, knowing that this wouldn't happen again, I took a big whiff of his strong cologne.’
    • ‘I caught a whiff of her hair and the flowery scent made my heart pound faster.’
    • ‘She caught a whiff of alcohol on him as he passed her to throw himself on her couch.’
    • ‘As I pulled the cakes out of the oven, I caught a whiff of heavenly nutmeg and knew I had a winner.’
    • ‘He could've swore he even caught a whiff of musky cologne.’
    • ‘She bent down to pick it up and instantly caught a whiff of what was in it.’
    • ‘A plasma blast tore past him, close enough that he caught a whiff of burnt feathers.’
    • ‘As we were driving down these terrible, lumpy, unlit streets we were constantly catching whiffs of different smells.’
    • ‘I knew I caught a whiff of something flammable in the office air Friday afternoon when a cacophony of squawking arose from a neighboring borough of Cubeville.’
    • ‘She said you could smell the whiff off it coming up the street.’
    • ‘Gentle whiffs of his cologne floated up to her from the coat.’
    • ‘He caught a whiff of her hair; it smelled like citrus.’
    faint smell, brief smell, trace, sniff, scent, odour, aroma
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    1. 1.1[in singular] An act of sniffing or inhaling, typically so as to determine or savor a scent.
      ‘one whiff of clothing and Fido was off’
      • ‘I caught a slight whiff of burnt oak in the smokeless breeze as I calmed my nerves.’
      • ‘The stink temporarily resurfaced a few months later in June 2003 and at one point was dubbed Le Pong because locals thought the whiff was being blown in from France.’
      • ‘Sabrina took a deep whiff of the steaming beverage, eyes closed.’
      • ‘Ticks that can lay dormant for decade underground and, catching a whiff of your carbon dioxide, emerge to suck you dry.’
      • ‘As the train picked up speed, we caught the whiff of, well, a rest room in terrible need of cleaning.’
      • ‘I stepped into the shop, took a deep whiff of the powerful chocolate and sugar scents, and studied the pastry case.’
      • ‘For they look set to catch a nasty whiff of sewage from an adjacent Yorkshire Water sewage treatment works - at least when the prevailing south-westerly winds are blowing.’
      • ‘He took a deep whiff of the salty sea air and sighed.’
      • ‘You get warm-and-fuzzy when you catch a whiff of your grandma's perfume in Macy's.’
      • ‘Klaxi looked pleasantly surprised and took a deep whiff of their sweet scent.’
      • ‘What if they bring the drug dogs through and they catch a whiff of my clothes?’
      • ‘Unrolling it, taking a deep whiff of that rich aroma.’
      • ‘The scent of humans overwhelmed his nostrils as it took a deep whiff of the air with delight.’
      • ‘I looked to Cory, who was seated in the front of the boat, holding his fingers to his nose and taking a deep whiff.’
      • ‘When the same lobsters were reintroduced after a days' separation, they only interacted long enough to catch a whiff of each other and recall who was the more dominant.’
      • ‘We may grimace and cough when we catch a whiff, but most of the time we shrug it off as part of the cost of living in modern society.’
      • ‘Walking up the road he caught the whiff of heaven drifting out of a small restaurant.’
      • ‘A single whiff can transport us immediately to something experienced many years before.’
      • ‘She took a deep whiff of his aftershave and found it quite pleasing and different from the one Jamie used.’
      • ‘Every year hundreds of new scents are marketed, but most disappear before anyone catches a whiff.’
    2. 1.2[in singular] A trace or hint of something bad, menacing, or exciting.
      ‘here was a man with a whiff of danger about him’
      • ‘O'Connor, an upper middle-class Irishman who flits across the social spectrum, still brings a whiff of danger to all his activities’
      • ‘There's a whiff of scandal, too, when a youthful indiscretion comes back to haunt Josh.’
      • ‘But where's the whiff of danger, the thrill of the unknown?’
      • ‘The word itself suggests scandal, a whiff of alterity: pornography.’
      • ‘Bloomington is a small town, and any whiff of scandal would torpedo the project.’
      • ‘Pre-war, there was a strong whiff of wishful thinking in the coalition's plans for Basra.’
      • ‘It is a clear testimony that the growing whiff of sexual violence against children is a big threat not be taken lightly by any concerned citizens.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I am excessively, and, perhaps, stupidly, proud of the fact that there is not a whiff of scandal about the name of any cricketer from Bangalore.’
      • ‘The only whiff of scandal about him is whether he was involved in illegal fund raising for the President's re-election campaign.’
      • ‘Cycling is crying out for a major tour without a whiff of a drugs scandal.’
      • ‘Yet the green light has been given on production, creating more than a whiff of scandal.’
      • ‘There has always been a whiff of scandal about the finances of the company.’
      • ‘Several other recent transfers have been accompanied by a strong whiff of controversy.’
      • ‘Everyone agrees that child porn is repulsive but there is a strong whiff of thought police here that is almost certain to be questioned in court.’
      • ‘Harry's first real whiff of scandal came from an author named N.K. Brown, in the guise of a plagiarism suit.’
      • ‘The smoke suggests a whiff of danger lurking around the corner.’
      • ‘So avoiding the whiff of scandal enveloping me back home, let me introduce you to the rest of my competitors.’
      • ‘On the quay at Mallaig the whiff of animosity is stronger than the odour from the boxes of freshly-caught prawns just landed for market.’
      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
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  • 2A puff or breath of air or smoke.

    • ‘I already have my gas mask out but not before I get a whiff of the smoke.’
    • ‘The tank, filled with water, gave a splendid ambience and wonderful sight to the walkers who breathed a whiff of fresh air during the last winter.’
    • ‘Derek cut in, he leaned closer taking a whiff of her breath then stepped back, the stench was very unpleasant.’
    • ‘A little whiff of smoke came waiting up in the clear, morning air.’
    • ‘It puffed a whiff of smoke and crouched down to their level.’
    • ‘When the doors eventually open and the audience totter in, the candidate had moved next door, leaving only a whiff of cigar smoke hanging in the air.’
    • ‘So there may not always be a whiff of smoke to alert the investigators.’
    • ‘What with the puffs and whiffs of transparent smoke escaping in and out of every outlet and or pore of my body.’
    • ‘This was the season when I'd once again set off across the stubbly fields to school, the sky infused with a pumpkin light, and the first whiff of banger smoke on the air.’
    • ‘A certain flower or a, a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten.’
    • ‘During shooting there was an occasional whiff of smoke at the rear of the cylinder and examination of the fired cases found them covered with soot from end to end.’
    • ‘And there is always that specter of a whiff of smoke being sniffed in the exceedingly crowded theater.’
    • ‘The servants disappeared as if they were whiffs of smoke blown away by the wind.’
    • ‘After a few rousing choruses of ‘O Holy Night’ there'd be a rustling at the back of the room and the first whiffs of smoke filtered forward.’
    • ‘As a matter of fact, I used to be in that latter group, totally ignorant and aggressive towards even the slightest whiff of cigar smoke.’
    • ‘A whiff of smoke sparked my noise, causing it to twitch as my allergies began to act, but I ignored it.’
    • ‘During shooting there was all occasional whiff of smoke at the rear of the cylinder and examination of the fired cases found them covered with soot from end to end.’
    • ‘My nostrils had discerned the insidious whiff of cigarette smoke, and, sure enough, a dark corner revealed a few glorious, glowing tips.’
    • ‘Some seem to believe that it's their God-given right to be able to go into any bar or restaurant without encountering a whiff of smoke.’
    • ‘A humid night it was - quite normal by the beach, one might argue - but for the occasional whiff of fresh breeze that wafted across the place.’
    puff, gust, blast, rush, flurry, gale, breath, draught, waft
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  • 3North American informal (chiefly in baseball or golf) an unsuccessful attempt to hit the ball.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Instead, all the attacks sounded like whiffs at a softball game.’
    • ‘Questioned about his 43 whiffs in 250 at-bats, Furcal says strikeouts are part of the game.’
    • ‘He's constantly pitching our services, but he always swings for the home run and whiffs, leaving it to lower-level salespeople to bring in the business that keeps us afloat.’
    • ‘Expect a lot of foul balls and whiffs until you adjust to the speed.’


  • 1[with object] Get a brief or faint smell of.

    ‘he screwed up his nose as if he'd whiffed Limburger’
    • ‘I walked in the front yard and whiffed the various aromas that were filtering through my nose.’
    • ‘We all smiled as we whiffed the scent of the baking cookies.’
  • 2North American informal [no object] (chiefly in baseball or golf) try unsuccessfully to hit the ball.

    • ‘Last year, he was one home run from a 40-40 season, and he improved his walks-to-strikeouts ratio, walking more than whiffing for the first time in his career.’
    • ‘In his 14-year career, he whiffed only 114 times, fewer times than many of today's hitters strike out in one season.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The strikeout numbers stayed low, with Barry never whiffing 70 times in a season.’
    • ‘With nearly 700 plate appearances in 2000, Sweeney whiffed just 67 times and had more walks than strikeouts for the second consecutive 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.