Up to snuff is a phrase that means to be of good quality or up to someone’s required standards. It is also a general idiom meaning in good health. The phrase is never hyphenated unless used as a modifier (e.g., an up-to-snuff device).
Snuff was powdered tobacco inhaled through the nose. The phrase up to snuff comes from a playwright in the 1800s. He used it to describe someone as knowing what is going on or being well-informed or ‘in the know’.
Over time the definition changed and now it more closely resembles the phrase up to scratch. This means for something to meet a particular standard or requirement.
The scratch comes from marking the ground for competitions, either a line for a race or a circle for two fighters.
This phrase is more common outside the United States, but understood within as well.
However, recent data has suggested that while sunscreens add protection, they aren’t necessarily up to snuff and often brands make coverage claims they can’t really deliver. [TIME]
Normally, I don’t sit for hours watching television, but I wasn’t feeling up to snuff, so I planted myself in front of the TV and was introduced to the world of reality television, including one of my Mom’s all-time favorite shows, “Chopped” on the Food Network. [Times Standard]
Some travel companies aim to capture frugal travelers, so they will create low-cost trips even if the mode of transportation is slower and service levels aren’t up to scratch, said Zhang Mei, founder of Beijing-based travel company WildChina Travel. [The Australian]