Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by tchrist, J.R., kiamlaluno, Matt 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.

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 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

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.

snaggle-tooth

ˈsnaggle-tooth.
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.

snaggle-toothed

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.

snag-tooth

snag-tooth.
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.
share|improve this answer
2  
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

share|improve this answer

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.

bucktoothed

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

share|improve this answer
1  
Thank you. Can you, please, give me an example of a correct usage of the word "snaggletooth"? –  brilliant Aug 12 '12 at 21:32
1  
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
3  
@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

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.

share|improve this answer
1  
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.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.