wise·​acre | \ ˈwīz-ˌā-kər How to pronounce wiseacre (audio) \

Definition of wiseacre

: 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 gives us "wisecrack" and "wisenheimer." But, in fact, "wiseacre" came to English by a different route; it derived from the Middle Dutch "wijssegger" (meaning "soothsayer"), a modification of the Old High German wīzzago. "Wiseacre" first appeared in English way back in the late 16th century, while the "insolent" sense of "wise" and the words formed from it are products of the 19th and 20th centuries. 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 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 Those roles led to a starring act as wiseacre Judge Stone in his own NBC sitcom. Karen Mizoguchi, PEOPLE.com, 16 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wiseacre.' 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 wiseacre

1595, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wiseacre

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

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The first known use of wiseacre was in 1595

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Cite this Entry

“Wiseacre.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wiseacre. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for wiseacre



English Language Learners Definition of wiseacre

: a person who says or does things that are funny but also annoying : smart-aleck


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