from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A trapping device, often consisting of a noose, used for capturing birds and small mammals.
  • n. Something that serves to entangle the unwary.
  • n. A surgical instrument with a wire loop controlled by a mechanism in the handle, used to remove growths, such as tumors and polyps.
  • transitive v. To trap with or as if with a snare. See Synonyms at catch.
  • n. Any of the wires or cords stretched across the lower drumhead of a snare drum so as to vibrate against it.
  • n. A snare drum.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A trap made from a loop of wire, string, or leather.
  • n. A mental or psychological trap; usually in the phrase a snare and a delusion.
  • n. A loop of cord used in obstetric cases, to hold or to pull a fetus from the mother animal.
  • n. A set of chains strung across the bottom of a drum to create a rattling sound.
  • n. A snare drum.
  • v. to catch or hold, especially with a loop.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A contrivance, often consisting of a noose of cord, or the like, by which a bird or other animal may be entangled and caught; a trap; a gin.
  • n. Hence, anything by which one is entangled and brought into trouble.
  • n. The gut or string stretched across the lower head of a drum.
  • n. An instrument, consisting usually of a wireloop or noose, for removing tumors, etc., by avulsion.
  • transitive v. To catch with a snare; to insnare; to entangle; hence, to bring into unexpected evil, perplexity, or danger.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To catch with a snare or noose; net.
  • Figuratively, to catch or take by guile; bring by cunning into unexpected evil, perplexity, or danger; entangle; entrap.
  • To use snares; catch birds or other animals in snares.
  • In surgery, to cut off by means of a snare.
  • n. A string; a cord; specifically, in a side-drum, one of the strings of gut or rawhide that are stretched across the lower head so as to produce a rattling reverberation on it.
  • n. A noose; a springe; a contrivance, consisting of a noose or set of nooses of cord, hair, wire, or the like, by which a bird or other animal may be entangled; a net; a gin.
  • n. Figuratively, anything by which one is entangled, entrapped, or inveigled.
  • n. In surgery, a light écraseur, consisting usually of a wire loop or noose, for removing tumors and the like.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a small drum with two heads and a snare stretched across the lower head
  • v. catch in or as if in a trap
  • n. strings stretched across the lower head of a snare drum; they make a rattling sound when the drum is hit
  • v. entice and trap
  • n. a trap for birds or small mammals; often has a slip noose
  • n. something (often something deceptively attractive) that catches you unawares
  • n. a surgical instrument consisting of wire hoop that can be drawn tight around the base of polyps or small tumors to sever them; used especially in body cavities


Middle English, from Old English snearu and from Old Norse snara.
Probably from Dutch snaar, string, from Middle Dutch snāre.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)



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  • In music, "‘Snares’...consist of a number of gut or wire strings stretched across the lower skin or ‘snare head.’" (A. C. BAINES, _Musical Instruments_ xiv. 335, 1961, cited in OED)

    The timbre of the drum's sound can be changed by tightening or loosening the snares.

    February 7, 2007