smarmier; smarmiest
: revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness
a tone of smarmy self-satisfaction New Yorker
: of low sleazy taste or quality
smarmy eroticism
smarmily adverb
smarminess noun

Did you know?

The history of smarmy is oily. Etymologists don't know where smarm (the verb from which it is based) came from, but they do know that it meant "to smear" or "to make smooth or oily" before gaining the meaning "to flatter." The adjective smarmy comes from the latter meaning.

Example Sentences

Yes, he's a smarmy know-it-all with the personality of a hall monitor, the kind of guy everyone hides from at a Christmas party. Bill Simmons, ESPN, 2 Aug. 2004 Perhaps not—but Zarrella's absence is giving prime-time exposure to Channel 9 sports backups Drew Soicher, Carol Maloney and Rod Mackey, any of whom is preferable to the main man, whose on-air presence has grown smarmier with each passing year. Michael Roberts, Denver Westword, 15 Mar. 2001 Norman's attempt at setting the Holly story straight is a well-researched volume in which Holly comes across as a talented, fun-loving guy who carried the torch for a high-school sweetheart with strong religious convictions; who blindly signed over much of his future income to Norman Perry, his smarmy producer and manager; and who endured grueling concert tours of the U.S. and Britain. Genevieve Stuttaford, Publishers Weekly, 12 Aug.1996
Recent Examples on the Web Ethan and Cameron, meanwhile, are friends from college, and the latter is shown consistently butting heads with the former’s wife, Harper, who seems bemused by his smarmy alpha-dog act. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 25 Oct. 2022 Suddenly, surreally, an extremely smarmy finance bro appears and mentions Anna Delvey defecating at his workplace, the startling shift in tone enough to give the viewer whiplash. Philippa Snow, The New Republic, 9 Feb. 2022 But Ozark is still better than most anything else, and Jason Bateman is supremely smarmy and worth the price of the popcorn all by himself. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 8 Feb. 2022 Ritchson’s 12-pack is a physical manifestation of a tonal problem: His Reacher is smarmy and pleased with himself, rather than casually secure in his own vast abilities. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 1 Feb. 2022 Most kids’ animation is pap: conventions and tropes punched up with smarmy double entendre for the benefit of the adults who bought the tickets. Rumaan Alam, The New Yorker, 23 Apr. 2020 In its most recent iteration, Joel McHale hosted the program from 2004 to 2015, his bordering-on-smarmy attitude towards his subjects contributing to sometimes uncomfortable celebrity run-ins. Kathryn Lindsay,, 12 Feb. 2020 Their responses to widespread, serious criticism can be grandiose and smarmy. Gideon Lewis-kraus, Wired, 15 Jan. 2020 His presence here can be chalked up to the fact that Underwater was filmed almost three years ago, but that doesn’t make his penchant for agitated, smarmy line-readings any less exhausting. David Sims, The Atlantic, 9 Jan. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'smarmy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


smarm to gush, slobber

First Known Use

1924, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of smarmy was in 1924


Dictionary Entries Near smarmy

Cite this Entry

“Smarmy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2022.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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