Definitions

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

  • n. Any of numerous aquatic or terrestrial mollusks of the class Gastropoda, typically having a spirally coiled shell, broad retractile foot, and distinct head.
  • n. A slow-moving, lazy, or sluggish person.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of very many animals (either hermaphroditic or nonhermaphroditic), of the class Gastropoda, having a coiled shell.
  • n. A slow person; a sluggard.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. Any one of numerous species of terrestrial air-breathing gastropods belonging to the genus Helix and many allied genera of the family Helicidæ. They are abundant in nearly all parts of the world except the arctic regions, and feed almost entirely on vegetation; a land snail.
  • n. Any gastropod having a general resemblance to the true snails, including fresh-water and marine species. See Pond snail, under pond, and sea snail.
  • n. Hence, a drone; a slow-moving person or thing.
  • n. A spiral cam, or a flat piece of metal of spirally curved outline, used for giving motion to, or changing the position of, another part, as the hammer tail of a striking clock.
  • n. A tortoise; in ancient warfare, a movable roof or shed to protect besiegers; a testudo.
  • n. The pod of the sanil clover.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To move slowly or lazily, like a snail.
  • To give the form of a snail-shell to; make spirally winding.
  • n. One of many small gastropods.
  • n. Specifically— A member of the family Helicidæ in a broad sense; a terrestrial air-breathing mollusk with stalks on which the eyes are situated, and with a spiral or helicoid shell which has no lid or operculum, as the common garden-snail, Helix hortensis, or edible snail, H. pomatia. There are many hundred species, of numerous genera and several subfamilies. In the phrases below are noted some of the common British species which have vernacular names. See Helicidæ, and cuts under Gasteropoda and Pulmonata.
  • n. A mollusk like the above, but shell-less or nearly so; a slug.
  • n. An aquatic pulmonate gastropod with an operculate spiral shell, living in fresh water; a pond-snail or river-snail; a limneid. See Limnæidæ.
  • n. A littoral or marine, not pulmonate, gastropod with a spiral shell like a snail's; a sea-snail, as a periwinkle or any member of the Littorinidæ; a salt-water snail.
  • n. Hence A slow, lazy, stupid person.
  • n. A tortoise.
  • n. Milit., a protective shed, usually called tortoise or testudo.
  • n. A spiral piece of machinery somewhat resembling a snail; specifically, the piece of metal forming part of the striking work of a clock. See cut under snail-wheel.
  • n. In anatomy, the cochlea of the ear.
  • n. plural Same as snail-clover.
  • n. Helix fusca, a delicate species peculiar to the British Isles, found in bushy places.
  • n. A snail-bore; an oystermen's name for various shells injurious to the beds, as the drills or borers, particularly of the geuera Urosalpinx and Natica. See snail-bore.

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

  • n. freshwater or marine or terrestrial gastropod mollusk usually having an external enclosing spiral shell
  • v. gather snails
  • n. edible terrestrial snail usually served in the shell with a sauce of melted butter and garlic

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English snægl.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the Middle English snegge, from the Old English snægel from the Proto-Germanic *snigilaz. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It's good for a laugh — the term "snail mail" takes on a whole new meaning — but the hope is there's a touching side to this story, and that its intended recipient, or her relatives, may still be found.

    Letter arrives in California 66 years after it left Alabama

  • SOLOMON: Well, certainly, snail mail still exists, however, as suggested by the term snail mail, it is a slow process and parents do like to hear from their children on a more regular basis and certainly e-mail can accomplish that.

    CNN Transcript Jul 11, 2004

  • That little stringy thing next to the snail is a clump of snail feces.

    Archive 2009-04-01

  • According to McNeill Alexander (who has tested the viscosity of the stuff) the foot mucus of a snail is a really quite sophisticated substance.

    How a snail moves - Part 1

  • Maurice the snail is also an excellent cook, "to Mona's surprise."

    Welcoming the Unexpected

  • The scene where that flying muppet carbonates beer with the guy riding a snail is a riot!

    ‘HARRY POTTER MEETS BOURNE IDENTITY’?!?

  • The drug Prialt derived from this cone snail is effectively treating pain, including phantom-limb pain; it's non addictive and the human body does not appear to develop a tolerance.

    Dr. Reese Halter: Mother Nature's Medicine Cabinet

  • Minutes as good will be sent by email to those who have been electronically up to date, as good as by unchanging mail to members who have been still ensnared in snail station (so to speak).

    Archive 2009-11-01

  • I also far prefer letter writing (I hate people who call it snail mail) to emails.

    Longhand « Write Anything

  • So, in snail mail news, the 2009-2010 SFWA dues renewal forms arrived today.

    Lapsing into what I've always been

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Comments

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  • He looked at me, smiling, now as ever since our talk with that priestly gaze designed to reach in and pull out our souls like a cooked snail from its shell.
    --Philippe Claudel, 2007, By a Slow River, p. 112

    August 6, 2010

  • The wind blew over pleasantly and it was a curiously protected and hidden place, sheltered and quiet, with its one small crop of cider apples dropping ungathered to the ground, and unharvested there, except by hurrying black ants and sticky, witless little snails.
    --Sarah Orne Jewett, 1881, An October Ride

    January 28, 2010

  • I gazed long at the weather-worn block; and, stooping down, perceived a hole near the bottom still full of snail-shells and pebbles, which we were fond of storing there with more perishable things. . .
    --Emily Brontë, 1847, Wuthering Heights

    November 14, 2009


  • Ernest was an elephant, a great big fellow,
    Leonard was a lion with a six foot tail,
    George was a goat, and his beard was yellow,
    And James was a very small snail.

    - A.A. Milne, 'The Four Friends'.

    August 8, 2009

  • The further off from England the nearer is to France--
    Then turn not pale beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
    --Lewis Carroll, 1865, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    November 8, 2007