smarmier; smarmiest
: revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness
a tone of smarmy self-satisfactionNew 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.

Examples of smarmy in a Sentence

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 But then come the unusual subjects: a collection of adolescent clones of historical figures, including Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Gandhi, and an extremely smarmy JFK, brought to life as part of a nefarious government experiment. Paul Schrodt, Vulture, 23 May 2023 However, Farrell infuses the character with a kind of smarmy charm that barely masks his overflowing ambition. Chris Snellgrove,, 23 Jan. 2023 Simon, a smarmy British artist, is largely absent from the story, appearing mostly in brief flashbacks and, late in the film, at the cottage itself, uninvited after Alice confesses her whereabouts to him over the phone. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 17 Jan. 2023 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

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'smarmy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 May. 2024.

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