1 : revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness
2 : of low sleazy taste or quality
Did You Know?
Something smarmy will often ooze with self-satisfaction and insincerity. Much like its synonyms unctuous and slick, smarmy has a history that starts with a meaning of literal slipperiness or oiliness. The verb smarm appeared in English in the mid-19th century. Etymologists don't know where it came from, but they do know that it meant "to smear," "to gush," or sometimes "to make smooth or oily." A few decades later, the use of smarm was extended to sometimes mean "to use flattery." The adjective smarmy appeared in the early 20th century. At first meaning "insincerely flattering" or "smug," it later took on an additional meaning: "sleazy."
The candidate came across as a bit smarmy during the interview.
"'No Control' has some punk-rock flair, more so in spirit than in sound. It's a little messy and smarmy and rages admirably here and there." - Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, November 17, 2014
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What noun is derived from a Latin word meaning "to prick" and in English refers to a feeling of guilt or regret (our February 2nd Word of the Day)? The answer is …
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