There may not be a word for it, but maybe there is a better or more concise way of describing it.


Snuffle. v.i. To breathe noisily through your nose, for example because you are crying or have a cold.

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    The definition shies away from describing the snot-gurgle which for me is the defining feature of this awful sound, but the reference to crying and a cold suggests that it actually refers to the same thing. It lacks the onomatopoeic value I was hoping for, but it seems this is the word in English. – LaC Jan 23 '12 at 18:17
  • One thing to note is that this may not connote the uncouth aspect. – Daniel Jan 23 '12 at 21:09
  • I take "uncouth" to modify "people" in the question, not "that sound", and therefore to be tangential. – MetaEd Jan 23 '12 at 21:34
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    I don't think this is correct: a snuffle is merely a pathetic sniffle. It is not that sound you make when you suck in the snot dripping into your sinuses, then forcefully hack it up. – Marthaª Jan 23 '12 at 22:49
  • @Marthaª: oh, I see! The sound I'm talking about it exactly the one you just described, but is there a word for it? – LaC Jan 24 '12 at 5:44

I think you would call that a snort.

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    snort/snôrt/ [google.com/?q=define:snort] Noun: An explosive sound made by the sudden forcing of breath through a person's nose, used to express indignation, derision, or incredulity. Verb: Make a sudden sound through one's nose, esp. to express indignation or derision: "she snorted with laughter". Synonyms: sniff - snore – Kris Jan 23 '12 at 6:25
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    And for your obscure word file, there's rhonchisonant "making a snorting noise, snorting". – Marthaª Jan 23 '12 at 22:58
  • +1 when I get to vote tonight. Note that snort is historically understood to be always in the opposite direction to snuffle, i.e., blowing forcefully through the nose. Recently, though, blow through the nose is of course an inhalation when "blow" means "cocaine" ... – MetaEd Jan 24 '12 at 15:32

I would say hawk - to raise by trying to clear the throat (hawk up phlegm).

Some will say that - as with snort - the movement of mucus is up/out rather than down/in. But often it's a composite move - down the sinuses to the back of the throat, up into the mouth, then out (spitting).

  • Right. The hawk comes afterward. – MetaEd Jan 24 '12 at 7:07
  • @MetaEd: Well, I did say "Some will say that"! But if you don't want to cal the whole sequence a "hawk", perhaps OP's action is the "pre-hawk". – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 17:48
  • Snuffle and hawk are onomatopoeia. "Snuffle" is the sound of noisy inbreath; "hawk" is the sound of throat clearing. Some would say. :-) – MetaEd Jan 24 '12 at 19:07
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    I've no doubt the dictionaries will say both are onomatopoeic, but to be honest, if you presented a person who's never heard either word before with the real-world sound of the first "operation" and the two words, I reckon he'd choose "hawk". – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 19:36

Snurgling. If it doesn't exist, it should do.

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    This is a much better word than the underwhelming "snuffle". It is unfortunate that "snuffle" exists, otherwise we could introduce "snurgle" as a neologism. – LaC Jan 23 '12 at 18:18
  • Getting downvoted... You're a tough bunch here ...:) – cormullion Jan 24 '12 at 8:52

The online dictionary and thesauris gives many definitions of snuffle, one is to noisly snuff up mucus. One definition of hawk is to cough up or make a mucus throat clearing sound. The best description is probably to say people perform a noisy snuffle, hawk and spit routine.


Where I live, it is mostly called a sniffle (close to snuffle I know, but not the same.) A person who has a mild head cold that causes them to do this is said to "have the sniffles". Presumably this came from the word "sniff", as that is basically a special case of sniffing (one where taking in an odor isn't the main purpose).

I have heard "snuffle" before, but had always assumed it was an alternative from people who didn't hear the word "sniffle" right, and were just going with it. Given the popularity of the other answers here with it though, I suppose there might be dialects where it is more common. It certainly isn't in the USA South Midlands area I live in though.

  • Until a decade or two ago, the (relatively parvenu) sniffling was always significantly less common than snuffling. Until I just checked, I've always remembered that the Jabberwock came snuffling through the tulgey wood, but I should have known Lewis Carroll wouldn't have used such an "ordinary" word (it was actually whiffling, and another thing I've just learned is that Carroll didn't make that particular word up anyway! :) – FumbleFingers Aug 17 '15 at 22:06

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