Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
February 8th, 2015
Episode 101 of 874 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 08, 2015 is: smarmy \SMAR-mee\ adjective 1 : revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness 2 : of low sleazy taste or quality Examples: The candidate came across as a bit smarmy during the interview. "'No Control' has some punk-rock flair, more so in spirit than in sound. It's a little messy and smarmy and rages admirably here and there." Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, November 17, 2014 Did you know? Something smarmy will often ooze with self-satisfaction and insincerity. Much like its synonyms unctuous and slick, smarmy has a history that starts with a meaning of literal slipperiness or oiliness. The verb smarm appeared in English in the mid-19th century. Etymologists don't know where it came from, but they do know that it meant "to smear," "to gush," or sometimes "to make smooth or oily." A few decades later, the use of smarm was extended to sometimes mean "to use flattery." The adjective smarmy appeared in the early 20th century. At first meaning "insincerely flattering" or "smug," it later took on an additional meaning: "sleazy."