\ ˈsmī(-ə)l \
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

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Other words from smile


smiler noun
smilingly \ˈsmī-liŋ-lē \ adverb


smileless \ˈsmī(-ə)l-ləs \ adjective

Synonyms for smile

Synonyms: Verb

laugh, sneer, snicker, snigger

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Examples of smile in a Sentence


The photographer asked us to smile for the camera. She smiled when she saw him. Both parents smiled their approval.


He greeted me with a big smile.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Image description: Abby holding her hair up and smiling over her shoulder. Blake Bakkila,, "This Underwear Model Posing in a Wheelchair Is Breaking Stereotypes and We Couldn’t Be Happier," 11 July 2018 The leaders then met one-on-one, with a smiling Abiy leaning toward Afwerki under a wall hung with their portraits. Elias Meseret, The Christian Science Monitor, "Ethiopia and Eritrea unite after ending 20-year border war," 9 July 2018 Bynum and the officer also posed for a smiling selfie. Gabby Ferreira, sacbee, "Black politician was campaigning in an Oregon neighborhood. Her constituent called the cops," 5 July 2018 In second snap, the model — whose hair is, at this point, shoulder-length — is seen smiling as Guido is literally ROFL-ing. Helena Yeung, Teen Vogue, "Model Lucan Gillespie Cuts 3 Feet of Hair for Miu Miu Runway Show," 3 July 2018 Along the walk, Bailey met an 11-year-old boy, happy and smiling. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "As murders rise among Indianapolis youth, so too does the search for answers," 2 July 2018 Sandy Alcantara walked into the Marlins’ clubhouse smiling Thursday morning. Andre C. Fernandez, miamiherald, "Sandy Alcantara poised to make debut while the Marlins focus on his development," 28 June 2018 Other craziness comes out when Depp talks about his sadly unused plan to capture Osama Bin Ladin, which was to dump clouds of LSD on his compound until everyone walked out smiling. Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The Courier-Journal, "Johnny Depp's interview with Rolling Stone is outrageous, depressing," 22 June 2018 The natural beauty movement is on the rise, which means people may be more open to smiling themselves silly in the mirror. Leah Prinzivalli, Bon Appetit, "Nope, Sorry, I Won't Exercise My Face," 12 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When reading his valedictory salute in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, this missionary was basking in the smile of his Savior even though the Roman government considered him a criminal worthy of death. Loren A. Yadon, idahostatesman, "Leaving the ‘stage of life’ to the applause of heaven," 12 July 2018 Cobb was an all-everything athlete with good grades, a pretty smile, handsome, and the homecoming king. Mac Engel, star-telegram, "A parent's pain over his imprisoned football star son," 10 July 2018 Some of the young ladies out there might do something that puts a smile on my face and makes me chuckle. Kyle Stackpole, Howard County Times, "Howard County announces 2018 Community Sports Hall of Fame induction class," 7 July 2018 The hate has always been embedded in their hearts and hidden behind their smiles. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Donald Trump is Not Making White People More Racist, He's Making Them Act More Racist," 5 July 2018 Winning or losing is greatly outweighed in the long run by smiles, laughter, and friendship., "Healthy attitudes in youth sports," 25 June 2018 Often wearing a camera and a smile, music aficionado and weatherman Danny Grau is a scoring machine. Marleen Van Den Neste, The Aegis, "Harford Highlighters hoop team heading to Seattle for USA Games," 11 June 2018 That's all good news for Nickelberry, who watched his teammates' interviews with a smile. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville pledge Josh Nickelberry recruiting teammates for Cards," 13 July 2018 The world’s greatest Cantonese chef then bums a cigarette from chef Leung, twists his colleague’s ear with a smile, and heads out on to the crowded Kowloon streets, unnoticed and unremarked. Casey Quackenbush / Hong Kong, Time, "'We're Not Educated.' The Untold Story of Lung King Heen, the World's First Michelin Three-Star Chinese Restaurant," 12 July 2018

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.

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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"

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Learn More about smile

Dictionary Entries near smile






smile on/upon


Statistics for smile

Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for smile

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

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More Definitions for smile



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 \
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

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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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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