wise·​acre ˈwīz-ˌā-kər How to pronounce wiseacre (audio)
: one who pretends to knowledge or cleverness
especially : smart aleck

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Wiseacre Has Old English Roots

Given the spelling and definition of wiseacre, you might guess that the word derives from the sense of wise meaning "insolent" or "fresh"—the sense that also gives us wise guy, wisecrack, and wisenheimer. But, in fact, wiseacre came to English by a different route: it is derived from the Middle Dutch wijssegger, meaning "soothsayer." Wiseacre first appeared in English way back in the 16th century, while the "insolent" sense of wise and the words formed from it are products of the 19th century. The etymologies of wiseacre and wise are not completely distinct, however; the ancestors of wiseacre are loosely tied to the same Old English root that gave us wise.

Examples of wiseacre in a Sentence

Quit being such a wiseacre and help your mother. a loudmouthed wiseacre who thinks he is more amusing than he really is
Recent Examples on the Web Mark Kelly The boat, the train and the paradigm shift were all missed by Apple, according to the wiseacres. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, 6 June 2023 At the height of his career, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, film director Mike Nichols was widely regarded as something akin to the nation’s satirist in chief — our principal wit, wag, and wiseacre. Peter Tonguette, National Review, 4 Mar. 2021 The rest is an affirming mixture of pathos and zingers, memories and regrets, all told in the wiseacre voice of Duffy Sinclair. Joyce Sáenz Harris, Dallas News, 6 Apr. 2020 The wiseacres at Ivy and Coney are once again turning their neighborhood tavern into a month-long celebration of Hanukkah. Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2019 Bugs Bunny likes carrots and is a wiseacre, but Mickey is a cypher. Oliver Staley, Quartz, 5 Mar. 2020 The young cast of the first IT was, unsurprisingly, in large part made up of unknowns, with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, who played the wiseacre Richie, the best known of the bunch. Clark Collis, EW.com, 10 July 2019 Similarly, the Pink Ladies, a popular clique headed by Rizzo (Stockard Channing), deliver their wiseacre lines with a fair dose of irony. Vogue, 1 Feb. 2019 Once, as a wiseacre adolescent, he was almost cast opposite Burt Reynolds in an early '90s buddy-cop comedy, and really wishes that had panned out. August Brown, latimes.com, 11 July 2018

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

Word History


Middle Dutch wijssegger soothsayer, modification of Old High German wīzzago; akin to Old English wītega soothsayer, witan to know

First Known Use

1595, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wiseacre was in 1595


Dictionary Entries Near wiseacre

Cite this Entry

“Wiseacre.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wiseacre. Accessed 17 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


wise·​acre ˈwī-ˌzā-kər How to pronounce wiseacre (audio)

a modified form of early Dutch wijssegger "one who is thought to be able to foretell events"

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