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smarm +‎ -y[en 1] Apparently coined by "B.R.L., of Brighton" with sense "saying treacly things which do not sound genuine" in a competition for neologisms in The Academy (London) published on 14 January 1899.[en 2]



smarmy (comparative smarmier, superlative smarmiest)

  1. Falsely earnest, smug, or ingratiating.
    a smarmy salesman with a big smile
    • (Can we date this quote?) “Ultimate Guide: Duck Hunt”, in Darran Jones, editor, 100 Games to Play Before You Die: Nintendo Consoles Edition (Retro Gamer), third edition, Future, page 43:
      Starring a smarmy dog and scores of hapless flying wildfowl, Duck Hunt was the game that introduced many to the joys of the NES Zapper lightgun.
  2. (rare, dated) unctuous, greasy, as hair from pomade
    • 1985, Lynn Pan, Into China's Heart: An Emigré's Journey Along the Yellow River (page 200)
      He looked faintly loutish, with smarmy hair and a hint of a moustache.
    • 2002 October, Austin Branstetter, "My day as a Carnie" Top of the Hill (Montgomery Bell Academy) Vol.8 No.1 p.4:
      I pulled on my smarmy t-shirt and my ragged jeans and dragged myself to report to my supervisor.


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “smarmy”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ Ben Yagoda (17 October 2018) "‘Smarmy’: How It Was Born and Survived" The Chronicle of Higher Education