1550s (implied in sneakish), perhaps from some dialectal survival of Middle English sniken "to creep, crawl" (c. 1200), related to Old English snican "to sneak along, creep, crawl," from Proto-Germanic *sneikanan, which is related to the root of snake (n.). Of feelings, suspicions, etc., from 1748. Transitive sense, "to partake of surreptitiously" is from 1883. Related: Sneaking. Sneak-thief first recorded 1859; sneak-preview is from 1938.