cock a snook

snook

2 [snook, snook]
noun
1.
a gesture of defiance, disrespect, or derision.
Idioms
2.
cock a/one's snook, to thumb the nose: a painter who cocks a snook at traditional techniques. Also, cock a snoot.

Origin:
1875–80; origin uncertain

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
snook1 (snuːk)
 
n , pl snook, snooks
1.  any of several large game fishes of the genus Centropomus, esp C. undecimalis of tropical American marine and fresh waters: family Centropomidae (robalos)
2.  (Austral) the sea pike Australuzza novaehollandiae
 
[C17: from Dutch snoek pike]

snook2 (snuːk)
 
n
(Brit) cock a snook
 a.  to make a rude gesture by putting one thumb to the nose with the fingers of the hand outstretched
 b.  to show contempt by being insulting or offensive
 
[C19: of obscure origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

cock a snook

Thumb one's nose, as in As soon as the teacher turned her back, the boys cocked a snook at her. This expression was first recorded in 1791 and the precise source of snook, here used in the sense of "a derisive gesture," has been lost. It is more widely used in Britain but is not unknown in America.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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