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[smeer] /smɪər/
verb (used with object)
to spread or daub (an oily, greasy, viscous, or wet substance) on or over something:
to smear butter on bread.
to spread or daub an oily, greasy, viscous, or wet substance on:
to smear bread with butter.
to stain, spot, or make dirty with something oily, greasy, viscous, or wet.
to sully, vilify, or soil (a reputation, good name, etc.).
to smudge or blur, as by rubbing:
The signature was smeared.
Slang. to defeat decisively; overwhelm:
They smeared the home team.
an oily, greasy, viscous, or wet substance, especially a dab of such a substance.
a stain, spot, or mark made by such a substance.
a smudge.
something smeared or to be smeared on a thing, as a glaze for pottery.
a small quantity of something spread thinly on a slide for microscopic examination.
a smear by a cheap gossip columnist.
Origin of smear
before 900; (v.) Middle English smeren, smirien to rub with fat, anoint, Old English smirian, smerian, smerwan; cognate with Dutch smeren, German schmieren, Old Norse smyrja, smyrwa; (noun) in current senses derivative of the v.; compare obsolete smear fat, grease, ointment, Middle English smere, Old English smeoru, cognate with Dutch smear, German Schmer, Old Norse smjǫr grease, Greek smýris rubbing powder; see emery
Related forms
smearer, noun
unsmeared, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for smear


verb (mainly transitive)
to bedaub or cover with oil, grease, etc
to rub over or apply thickly
to rub so as to produce a smudge
to slander
(US, slang) to defeat completely
(intransitive) to be or become smeared or dirtied
a dirty mark or smudge
  1. a slanderous attack
  2. (as modifier): smear tactics
a preparation of blood, secretions, etc, smeared onto a glass slide for examination under a microscope
Derived Forms
smearer, noun
Word Origin
Old English smeoru (n); related to Old Norse smjör fat, Old High German smero, Greek muron ointment
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for smear

Old English smerian, smierwan "to anoint or rub with grease, oil, etc.," from Proto-Germanic *smerwjan "to spread grease on" (cf. Old Norse smyrja "to anoint, rub with ointment," Danish smøre, Swedish smörja, Dutch smeren, Old High German smirwen "apply salve, smear," German schmieren "to smear;" Old Norse smör "butter"), from PIE *smeru- "grease" (cf. Greek myron "unguent, balsam," Old Irish smi(u)r "marrow," Old English smeoru "fat, grease, ointment, tallow, lard, suet," Lithuanian smarsas "fat").

Figurative sense of "assault a public reputation with unsubstantiated charges" is from 1879. Related: Smeared; smearing. Smear-word, one used regardless of its literal meaning but invested with invective, is from 1938.


"mark or stain left by smearing," 1610s, from smear (v.). Sense of "small quantity prepared for microscopic examination" is from 1903. Meaning "a quantity of cream cheese, etc., smeared on a bagel" is by 1999, from Yiddish shmir. The earliest noun sense in English is "fat, grease, ointment" (c.1200), from Old English had smeoru "fat, grease," cognate with Middle Dutch smere, Dutch smeer, German Schmer "grease, fat" (Yiddish schmir), Danish smør, Swedish smör "butter."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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smear in Medicine

smear (smēr)
A sample, as of blood or bacterial cells, spread thinly on a slide and usually stained for microscopic examination or applied to the surface of a culture medium.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for smear

smear 1


: They never stoop to smear tactics


: His whole campaign was a vile smear of the other party's man • The current term is ''negative campaigning'' (1943+)


  1. To knock unconscious; kayo (1920+ Prizefighting)
  2. To defeat decisively; trounce; clobber, skunk: The Rangers got smeared 12–zip (1900+)
  3. To attack someone's reputation, esp with false or vague charges of the ad hominem sort; defame: His technique was always to smear his opponent and avoid talking about issues of substance (1847+)

[revived in the 1930s in the political context]

smear 2


schmear1 (1950s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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