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[sneyl] /sneɪl/
any mollusk of the class Gastropoda, having a spirally coiled shell and a ventral muscular foot on which it slowly glides about.
a slow or lazy person; sluggard.
a cam having the form of a spiral.
Midwestern and Western U.S. a sweet roll in spiral form, especially a cinnamon roll or piece of Danish pastry.
Origin of snail
before 900; Middle English snail, snayl(e), Old English snegel; cognate with Low German snagel, German (dial.) Schnegel
Related forms
snaillike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for snail
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was impossible for him to proceed at anything faster than what seemed a snail's pace.

    The Rest Hollow Mystery Rebecca N. Porter
  • I travel; but it seems to be like the snail, with my house upon my head.

  • Had I been on horseback, I should have regarded the creature no more than the snail that crawled upon the grass.

    The War Trail Mayne Reid
  • We had made the first part of our journey at a snail's pace.

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • I did my Biology at University College,—getting out the ovary of the earthworm and the radula of the snail, and all that.

  • It seemed to me that something like a snail was on the outside of the window-pane.

    The Wisdom of Father Brown G. K. Chesterton
  • The latter words to a big sailor who was moving across the deck at a snail's pace.

    At the Fall of Port Arthur Edward Stratemeyer
  • Then he sweeps them all together in one heap, along with snail shells and rush-seeds.

    Debts of Honor Maurus Jkai
  • She was a sea-anemone, covered with a myriad of filaments, all more shrinking and sensitive than a snail's horns.

    Vassall Morton Francis Parkman
British Dictionary definitions for snail


any of numerous terrestrial or freshwater gastropod molluscs with a spirally coiled shell, esp any of the family Helicidae, such as Helix aspersa (garden snail)
any other gastropod with a spirally coiled shell, such as a whelk
a slow-moving or lazy person or animal
Derived Forms
snail-like, adjective
Word Origin
Old English snægl; related to Old Norse snigill, Old High German snecko
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for snail

Old English snægl, from Proto-Germanic *snagila (cf. Old Saxon snegil, Old Norse snigill, Danish snegl, Swedish snigel, Middle High German snegel, dialectal German Schnegel, Old High German snecko, German Schnecke "snail"), from *snog-, variant of PIE root *sneg- "to crawl, creep; creeping thing" (see snake (n.)). The word essentially is a diminutive form of Old English snaca "snake," which literally means "creeping thing." Also formerly used of slugs. Symbolic of slowness since at least c.1000; snail's pace is attested from c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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snail in the Bible

(1.) Heb. homit, among the unclean creeping things (Lev. 11:30). This was probably the sand-lizard, of which there are many species in the wilderness of Judea and the Sinai peninsula. (2.) Heb. shablul (Ps. 58:8), the snail or slug proper. Tristram explains the allusions of this passage by a reference to the heat and drought by which the moisture of the snail is evaporated. "We find," he says, "in all parts of the Holy Land myriads of snail-shells in fissures still adhering by the calcareous exudation round their orifice to the surface of the rock, but the animal of which is utterly shrivelled and wasted, 'melted away.'"

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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