The Past Tense of Sneak: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

Learning languages can be a really exciting way to learn about a different culture, its country, and its people.  However, language can also pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn.  From complicated verb conjugations to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply; all these make trying to learn English pretty difficult. 

English is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn just based on the fact that it tends to struggle with following most of its own rules.  Part of the reason for this is that English borrows (or just completely steals) most of its grammar from other languages.  English is an etymological mashup of several different languages, which causes several common grammar mistakes.

In this article, let’s explore the infinitive verb “to sneak,” learn its proper use, how to use its past tense form, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context. By doing this, hopefully, even practicing English speakers can turn into grammarians.

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What Is the Past Tense of the Word Sneak?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the verb sneak can be defined as “to go out stealthily or furtively; slink” or “to act in or as if in a furtive manner.”  In all, there are five or six different definitions of the word in both its transitive and intransitive forms.

Part of what makes English such a difficult language to master is that no matter where you look, there are rules, and then there are exceptions to those rules.  For example, the common rule for making the past tense in English is to add “-d” or “-ed” to a verb to give it the past tense.  For example, a regular verb like cook becomes cooked, and bake becomes baked.  In both situations, you either add the “-ed” or the “-d” suffix, and the word is past tense.  However, the past tense of sneak is actually nonstandard, meaning it does not follow either of these rules for creating the past tense.

The correct simple past tense of the English verb “to sneak” is actually “snuck.”  So, for example, you would not say, “he sneaked around,” but rather, “he snuck around.” This irregular verb tense remains the same in both British English and American English.  

Is Sneaked a Real Word?

When asking whether or not something is a real word, what you are really asking is whether or not people use it often enough for it to be considered correct.  The reason for this distinction is that language is directed by culture, not the other way around.  The words people use in common conversation eventually become correct even if they are not considered correct by a dictionary.  For example, the word selfie was added to several dictionaries a few years ago due to its prevalence in context and in culture.

The dictionary cannot be the definitive authority on all of a language, so learn your audience and how they communicate, and you will be just fine.

The word sneaked definitely can be considered a valid past tense, and actually is the “correct” form in many parts of Canada.  

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word sneak comes from the Middle English language.  The word “sniken” was first used in the middle of the sixteenth century and is translated “to creep, or crawl,” and derived from the Old English word “snican,” which also means “to sneak along.”  

The word almost completely derives its origin from older western European languages, rather than most nouns in modern English deriving their meaning and origin from ancient languages such as Latin or Greek.  

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word “to sneak” (and its past tense) in common context:

  • “My little brother just likes to sneak around every day.  He jumps from one hiding place to another, trying to stay out of sight.”
  • “He snuck into the vault under cover of darkness and stole every piece of 19th-century heirloom jewelry that they owned.”
  • “They had to sneak out of town because they were under strict curfew due to the riots.”

Synonyms for Sneak

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the verb “to sneak”:

  • To creep basically means to sneak but also has some connotations regarding the noise level
  • To prowl is very similar to sneaking, but usually means an animal stalking its prey before it pounces to kill it
  • To slink is another synonym that will be very useful to learn, and it means the same thing as to sneak

In Summary

By reaching the end of this article, you should be fully prepared to use the word sneak in any context in both the present and past tense.  Memorizing its irregular past tense should not be difficult once you learn how to use it properly in context.  Good luck!