The noun is attested since 1914, from the colloquial verb smalm, smarm (“to smear, bedaub (hair, with pomade)”), attested since 1847, of unknown origin, perhaps somehow suggestive of the action. Verbal meaning "to smear with flattery" is from 1902.
- Rhymes: -ɑː(r)m
- Smarmy language or behavior.
- 2012 May 20, Nathan Rabin, “TV: Review: THE SIMPSONS (CLASSIC): “Marge Gets A Job” (season 4, episode 7; originally aired 11/05/1992)”, in The Onion AV Club:
- Phil Hartman, the voice and soul of McClure, was the king of making everything sounds cheerful and positive, no matter how grim. McClure was the personification of smarm. He alone could say, “Your children are missing. I know because I murdered them with my own hands!” and make it sound like good news.
- (intransitive) To fawn, to be unctuous.
- (transitive) To address in a fawning and unctuous manner.