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1. A practical joke in which the victim is sent on a hunt for a fictitious animal called a snipe. When I was in the Cub Scouts, the youngest members were always sent out on a snipe hunt by the counselors on the night of our first big campout.
2. By extension, any hunt, search, or quest for something that is fictitious, non-existent, elusive, or illusory. The president has pledged to make universal healthcare a reality, but I think he's really just on a snipe hunt.
snipe at (someone or something)
1. To shoot at someone or something from a concealed or distant position. We should avoid the main streets, as it will give the insurgents too much opportunity to snipe at us from the high buildings. I was able to snipe at the convoy from nearly 3,000 meters away.
2. To direct snide, petulant, or malicious criticisms toward someone or something. He's so two-faced, acting all buddy-buddy with people in the office and then sniping at them when they're out of earshot. You ought to offer some practical solutions, rather than spending the entire meeting just sniping at our proposals.
See also: snipe
snipe at someone or something
1. Lit. to fire a weapon at someone or something from a concealed position. Someone with a rifle sniped at the troops as they went through the jungle. A rifleman was busy sniping at the platoon.
2. Fig. to make petty complaints attacking someone or something. Stop sniping at me and everything I do. Ken is always sniping at my reports.
See also: snipe
n. a cigarette or cigar butt. Down on skid row, a snipe won’t be on the sidewalk for ten seconds.