smithereens

plural noun

smith·​er·​eens ˌsmi-t͟hə-ˈrēnz How to pronounce smithereens (audio)
: small broken pieces : fragments, bits
the vase was in smithereens on the floor
usually used in phrases like blow to smithereens or smash to smithereens
Roughly once a second, a star somewhere in the universe explodes. Some of these stars are blown to smithereens, strewing ashes through space.Ron Cowen
Within less than a decade, foreign invaders with horses, gunpowder, and lethal diseases had smashed their empire to smithereens.Niall Ferguson
He felt a plunk on the back of his neck as the snowball smashed to smithereens just above his coat collar.Mordecai Richler
Don't tell that guy blasting rampaging zombies to smithereens in his favorite video game that he's getting lessons in efficient decision making.Bruce Bower

Did you know?

Despite its American sound and its common use by the fiery animated cartoon character Yosemite Sam, smithereens did not originate in American slang. Although no one is entirely positive about its precise origins, scholars think that smithereens likely developed from the Irish word smidiríní, which means "little bits." That Irish word is the diminutive of smiodar, meaning "fragment." According to print evidence, the plural form smithereens first appears in English in the late 18th century; use of singular smithereen then follows.

Examples of smithereens in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Viktoriia Markova, whose home in Chernihiv was smashed to smithereens by an artillery shell, was recently given a small shelter in her backyard for her, her husband and teenage son. Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, 19 Sep. 2022 Harry retasked the fighter to target a nearby barn instead, pretending to blow it to smithereens. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 13 Jan. 2023 When Rs propose some spending cuts, Ds demagogue it to smithereens. Theodoric Meyer, Washington Post, 13 Jan. 2023 This latest setup, which utilized a technique called inertial confinement fusion, involved blasting fusion fuel into smithereens with lasers. Mike Pearl, The New Republic, 14 Dec. 2022 Eleven also defeated another one by blowing it to smithereens with her powers, blasting herself into the Upside Down in the process. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 25 May 2022 Somewhere in the universe, at least once a second, a massive star goes supernova, blowing to smithereens with the intensity of an entire galaxy’s worth of shining stars. Dolly Setton, Discover Magazine, 30 July 2014 So at least one expensive prototype needs to get smashed to smithereens, while its dummy passengers survive. Christina Reed, Discover Magazine, 25 July 2017 Helming is betting on plasma torch technology that heats rock to about 6,000 degrees Celsius, blasting it to smithereens, as the solution. Wired, 13 Aug. 2022

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

Word History

Etymology

perhaps from Irish smidiríní

First Known Use

1795, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of smithereens was in 1795

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Dictionary Entries Near smithereens

Cite this Entry

“Smithereens.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smithereens. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

smithereens

noun plural
smith·​er·​eens ˌsmit͟h-ə-ˈrēnz How to pronounce smithereens (audio)
: small broken pieces : bits

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