\ ˈsmī(-ə)l How to pronounce smile (audio) \
smiled; smiling

Definition of smile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to have, produce, or exhibit a smile
2a : to look or regard with amusement or ridicule smiled at his own folly— Martin Gardner
b : to bestow approval feeling that Heaven smiled on his labors— Sheila Rowlands
c : to appear pleasant or agreeable

transitive verb

1 : to affect with or by smiling
2 : to express by a smile



Definition of smile (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a facial expression in which the eyes brighten and the corners of the mouth curve slightly upward and which expresses especially amusement, pleasure, approval, or sometimes scorn
2 : a pleasant or encouraging appearance

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from smile


smiler noun
smilingly \ ˈsmī-​liŋ-​lē How to pronounce smilingly (audio) \ adverb


smileless \ ˈsmī(-​ə)l-​ləs How to pronounce smileless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for smile

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of smile in a Sentence

Verb The photographer asked us to smile for the camera. She smiled when she saw him. Both parents smiled their approval. Noun He greeted me with a big smile.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But behind the smiling photographs, the family was struggling with a serious issue — Skylar's eating disorder. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, "The case against Brooke Skylar Richardson," 23 May 2020 Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward would smile, decimate an opponent and smile again. Michael Gehlken, Dallas News, "Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb is known for making ‘unreal’ catches in big moments, but it’s his ‘dog’ mentality that sets him apart," 23 May 2020 There are tutorials for do-it-yourself face masks, and a guide to creating badges that include a smiling picture of each employee. Abha Bhattarai, Anchorage Daily News, "The pandemic is changing every aspect of shopping: From store layouts to how jeans are folded," 22 May 2020 Girls with long hair and fancy dresses, their arms draped around one another’s shoulders, smiling wide. New York Times, "A Campaign Milestone: ‘I Was Drugged and Raped,’ Heard in a Candidate’s Ad," 21 May 2020 In the photo, a smiling Meghan holds Archie, while her mom, Doria Ragland, Harry, the Queen and Prince Philip all gaze at the infant. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Prince William and Kate Middleton Wished Archie a Happy First Birthday," 6 May 2020 Food delivered in courses, by a smiling stranger’s hand. Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic, "Cooking While the World Falls Apart," 30 Apr. 2020 The Bedouins sang folk songs and danced, smiling curiously at the crowd, until Stephanie hooked up her laptop to a Bluetooth speaker, which started blasting out Britney Spears. Sheila Marikar, 1843, "Arab millennials have a new favourite fashion brand," 7 May 2020 However, when their rescuer reveals that their final destination is Nassau, where Ward sent the gold off to, John B. and Sarah smile at each other at the hope of trying to get the gold again. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "What Really Happened to John B. and Sarah Cameron in "Outer Banks"?," 22 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For one game, at least, the fans at The Corner were sent home with a smile. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers flashback: Relive Kirk Gibson's final walk-off homer at Tiger Stadium," 26 May 2020 Dad racks the slide, and regards the smoking hull with a smile. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, "How to Take Your Father Turkey Hunting," 19 May 2020 My mother is a strong single mother of three kids that faces every challenge with a smile on her face. Angel Franco, Dallas News, "Your stories: An homage to moms this Mother’s Day," 10 May 2020 Also show me the subtlest curve of a smile, or a flash of exasperation or joy or anguish reflected in a giant, projected iris. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Of Course People Are Streaming Movies Right Now—That Doesn’t Mean It’s the New Normal," 29 Apr. 2020 Check out the ladies who put a smile on our faces this week with their love for lashes and their inside glow. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "Megan Thee Stallion, Laila Ali And Other Celebrity Beauty Photos Of The Week," 10 Apr. 2020 University of California’s review of its admissions procedures smiles on sats LIKE ANY hotbed of scholarly activity, the University of California (UC) is no stranger to rows. The Economist, "What’s SAT Are test scores the backbone of meritocracy or the nexus of privilege?," 8 Feb. 2020 Holding a tablet in his hands, Jordan purses his lips to hold back a smile while listening to the filmmakers’ interview with Payton. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "‘The Last Dance’: The 23 most fascinating takeaways from Episodes 7 and 8," 10 May 2020 His lips would go pppp-pow-brhoom, as staccato as a firing gun, followed by a sudden blanket of silence as his face relaxed and his lips pursed into a peaceful smile. Shoshannah Stern, New York Times, "Mothering in a Newly Quiet World," 8 May 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of smile


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for smile


Middle English smilen, going back to a Germanic verbal base *smil-, *smīl- (from earlier *smei̯l-) "smile," probably an extension with -l- of Indo-European *smei̯- "laugh, smile," whence Old Church Slavic smějǫ sę, smijati sę "to laugh," Latvian smeju, smiêt "to laugh, mock," Tocharian B smi- "smile," Sanskrit smáyate "(s/he) smiles," and with a -d- extension in Greek meidiáein "to smile," philomeidḗs "with a friendly smile," Latvian smaida "smile," smaidît "to smile, mock"

Note: The comparative set for this Germanic etymon do not show clear descent from a single form, perhaps due to its affective character. There is no attested Old English ancestor of Middle English smilen; a Scandinavian source has been suggested, but Danish smile "to smile" and Swedish smila, not attested before the 17th century, could be loans from an unattested Middle Low German verb. Old High German has smilenter (glossing Latin subridens "smiling"), with presumed long vowel, continued by Middle High German smielen. Kiliaen's 1599 Dutch dictionary enters smuylen "subridere," apparently with a different vocalism. Parallel to these are a group of forms with -r- rather than -l-: Old English smerian "to laugh, scorn," Old High German smierēn, smierōn (with e2?) "to smile," Old English bismerian and Old High German bismerōn "to mock, insult," and, with different vocalism, Old English smǣr, smǣre "lip(s)," gālsmǣre "inclined to laugh, frivolous." The forms with -r- have been compared with Sanskrit (Vedic) á-smera- "not bashful, confiding," and particularly with Latin mīrus "remarkable, amazing," presumed to be derivative of a neuter *mīrum, going back to a noun *smei̯-ro- "laughter, smiling," (though a semantic shift from "laughter" to "astonishment" is questionable).


Middle English smyle, derivative of smilen "to smile entry 1"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about smile

Time Traveler for smile

Time Traveler

The first known use of smile was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for smile

Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Smile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for smile


How to pronounce smile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of smile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make a smile : to make the corners of your mouth turn up in an expression that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, affection, etc.
: to show or express (something, such as approval, encouragement, etc.) by a smile
: to say (something) with a smile



English Language Learners Definition of smile (Entry 2 of 2)

: an expression on your face that makes the corners of your mouth turn up and that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, affection, etc.


\ ˈsmīl How to pronounce smile (audio) \
smiled; smiling

Kids Definition of smile

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : make the corners of the mouth turn up in an expression of amusement or pleasure
2 : to look with amusement or pleasure She smiled at the picture.
3 : to express by a smile Both parents smiled approval.



Kids Definition of smile (Entry 2 of 2)

: an expression in which the corners of the mouth turn upward especially to show amusement or pleasure

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on smile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for smile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with smile

Spanish Central: Translation of smile

Nglish: Translation of smile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of smile for Arabic Speakers

Comments on smile

What made you want to look up smile? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!