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Is it okay to say "He had snaggle teeth"? Or there is a better way of describing that problem with teeth?

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closed as general reference by tchrist, J.R., kiamlaluno, Matt E. Эллен, MετάEd Aug 22 '12 at 12:20

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You say that he had a snaggle-tooth, or that he had snaggle-teeth, or that he was snaggle-toothed, or that he was a snaggle-tooth. See the examples below transcribed from the Oxford English Dictionary.

I suppose you could say he was in need of dental orthodontic work if you didn’t want to spell out that his teeth were uneven and snaggly.


snaggle /ˈsnæg(ə)l/, sb. Chiefly dial. and colloq.
Etymology: app. f. snag sb.1: cf. snaggle-tooth.

  1. A snaggle-tooth; one who has snaggle-teeth. rare.

    • 1823 M. Wilmot Let. 1 Oct. (1935) 197 ― Blanche [has] become alas a snaggle! Those dear little pearls of teeth are going. *1880 Courtney & Couch Gloss. Words Cornwall 52/2 ― What snaggles the cheeld has.
  2. A tangle; a knotted or projecting mass.

    • 1904 Eng. Dial. Dict. V. 567/1 ― Snaggle,··a knotted, entangled condition.
    • 1968 C. Helmericks Down Wild River North ii. xxii. 336 ― The girls pitched our * tent in the sparse, pristine plant population between rock snaggles.
    • 1978 T. Hughes in Times Lit. Suppl. 14 Apr. 409/1 ― All eyes watch The weathered, rooty, bushy pile of faces, A snaggle of faces.
  3. attrib., as snaggle-tusk.


Etymology: Cf. next and snag-tooth.

An irregular or projecting tooth. Also, one with snaggle-teeth.

  • 1820 M. Wilmot Let. 12 Jan. (1935) 51 ― Catherine has actually lost one of her teeth!·· The poor Cat will be a rare frightful snaggle tooth.
  • 1821 M. Wilmot Let. 17 Mar. 99 ― Instead of being hideous in the snaggle tooth age··she is··improved.
  • 1825 Jennings Obs. Dial. W. Eng. 71 ― Snaggle-tooth, a tooth growing irregularly.
  • 1859 Slang Dict. 96 ― Snaggle teeth, uneven, and unpleasant looking dental operators.
  • 1897 S. Watson Life’s Look-out 67 ― Every building had its own lurch inwards or outwards, like a mouthful of snaggle teeth.
  • 1906 Dialect Notes III. 157 ― You’ll be a snaggle-tooth before you’re twenty, if you don’t quit eating so much candy.
  • 1909 J. R. Ware Passing Eng. 227/2 ― Snaggle-tooth, woman of lower order··who, lifting her upper lip when scolding, shows an irregular row of teeth.


ˈsnaggle-toothed, a.
Etymology: app. f. snag sb.1

Having snaggle-teeth. Also fig.

  • 1585 Higins tr. Junius’ Nomencl. 452/1 s.v. Dento.
  • 1688 Holme Armoury ii. 427/1 ― Snaggle, or Rake toothed, is when the teeth * stands at a distance, one from the other.
  • 1884 J. C. Harris Nts. Uncle Remus 105 ― I’m snaggle‐toofed an’ double j’inted.
  • 1945 B. Macdonald Egg & I (1946) 85 ― On grey winter days its snaggle-toothed horizon could be seen plainly.
  • 1954 Caribbean Quarterly III. iv. 231 ― Albert is a bright‐eyed, snaggle-toothed little man.
  • 1971 B. W. Aldiss Soldier Erect 32 ― That snaggle-toothed chap in the comic button-up white suit,··-put him in a proper pinstripe and he’d pass for an Eastbourne estate agent!
  • 1977 Time 14 Feb. 21/3 ― Entertainment is provided by··a Hollywood drop-cloth view of snaggle-toothed Mount Kenya.
  • 1922 Joyce Ulysses 424 ― The famished snaggletusks of an elderly bawd protrude from a doorway.


Etymology: f. snag sb.1 Cf. snaggle-tooth.

A snag-like tooth.

  • 1655 Cotgrave Wits Interpr. (1662) 253 ― How thy snag‐teeth stand orderly, Like stakes which strut by th’ water side.
  • 1727 in Bailey (vol. II.).
  • 1890 Amer. Anthropologist Oct. 316 ― Projecting canines or ‘snag teeth’ are so common in low faces as to be universally remarked.
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Yes, or you could say "he had crooked teeth", or "he was in need of braces", or even "he looked like someone an orthodontist would love to be friends with." – Jim Aug 12 '12 at 21:58

According to American Heritage Dctionary, Snaggletooth is

A tooth that is broken or not in alignment with the others.

As an adjective, snaggletoothed is sometimes found. See, for example, Merriam-Webster

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Unless you're trying to insult the person, I wouldn't use the term snaggle teeth. You could just say he had crooked teeth. Or if you want to be precise, the dental term for this is odontoloxia or odontoparallaxis.

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Graecum est: non potest legi – tchrist Aug 13 '12 at 12:49
Yep, to me also. – JLG Aug 13 '12 at 13:18

I think irregular teeth is the least emotionally laden expression. I fear crooked rather connotes unpleasantness.

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The better way to say it is:

He has an overbite.

'snaggletooth' is too informal almost pejorative but not quite. It is more often used as a nickname, behind someone's back, almost like calling someone 'fatty'.

Edit: I am maintaining the above rather than deleting altogether as a signpost of a plausible but wrong answer.

Overbite is not correct. snaggletoothed just means a single tooth that sticks out in a strange direction.


is when the upper front teeth project well beyond the lower ones. This is a particular kind of overbite.

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Thank you. Can you, please, give me an example of a correct usage of the word "snaggletooth"? – brilliant Aug 12 '12 at 21:32
You can say 'he has a snaggletooth' or 'he is snaggletoothed' or 'that good for nothing, snaggletooth varmint' – Mitch Aug 12 '12 at 21:43
@Mitch, I think an overbite is where the upper teeth extend too far forward compared to the lower teeth. Snaggle-tooth refers to a case where individual teeth are coming in at all angles – Jim Aug 12 '12 at 21:43
I can give an example: To offset his good looks, he wore a red rubber ball for a nose, kept his eyebrows shaved off, and covered his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random. NOAD lists snaggletooth as "an irregular tooth" with snaggleteeth as the plural. Here's another usage: My daughter has a snaggletooth; she's hoping it comes in handy when the auditions for Twilight begin. – J.R. Aug 12 '12 at 22:37

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