Origin of smart

before 1050; (v.) Middle English smerten, Old English -smeortan (only in the compound fyrsmeortende painful like fire), cognate with Old High German smerzan (German schmerzen); (adj.) Middle English smerte, smart quick, prompt, sharp, orig., biting, smarting, late Old English smearte, akin to the v.; (adv. and noun) Middle English smerte, derivative of the adj.
Related formssmart·ing·ly, adverbsmart·ly, adverbsmart·ness, nounsu·per·smart, adjectivesu·per·smart·ly, adverbsu·per·smart·ness, nounul·tra·smart, adjectiveun·smart, adjectiveun·smart·ing, adjective

Synonyms for smart

Antonyms for smart

8. stupid.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for smartly

vigorously, active, gaily, spirited

Examples from the Web for smartly

Contemporary Examples of smartly

Historical Examples of smartly

  • The most obvious is to hit him smartly and with precision on the exact tip of the nose.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • I most truly would have liked to shake him smartly for this.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She also was smartly dressed, with her dazzling linen and scrupulous neatness.

  • In vain she raised her voice, and slapped him smartly on the hands.

    Doctor Pascal

    Emile Zola

  • If he refuses, some one with a whip or switch should apply it smartly.

British Dictionary definitions for smartly



astute, as in business; clever or bright
quick, witty, and often impertinent in speecha smart talker
fashionable; chica smart hotel
well-kept; neat
causing a sharp stinging pain
vigorous or brisk
dialect considerable or numerousa smart price
(of systems) operating as if by human intelligence by using automatic computer control
(of a projectile or bomb) containing a device that allows it to be guided to its target

verb (mainly intr)

to feel, cause, or be the source of a sharp stinging physical pain or keen mental distressa nettle sting smarts; he smarted under their abuse
(often foll by for) to suffer a harsh penalty


a stinging pain or feeling


in a smart manner
Derived Formssmartish, adjectivesmartly, adverbsmartness, noun

Word Origin for smart

Old English smeortan; related to Old High German smerzan, Latin mordēre to bite, Greek smerdnos terrible



Christopher. 1722–71, British poet, author of A Song to David (1763) and Jubilate Agno (written 1758–63, published 1939). He was confined (1756–63) for religious mania and died in a debtors' prison
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

Word Origin and History for smartly

early 13c., "vigorously," from smart (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "handsomely" is from 1836.



Old English smeortan "be painful," from Proto-Germanic *smarta- (cf. Middle Dutch smerten, Dutch smarten, Old High German smerzan, German schmerzen "to pain," originally "to bite"), from PIE *smerd- "pain," an extension of the root *mer- (2) "to rub; to harm" (cf. Greek smerdnos "terrible, dreadful," Sanskrit mardayati "grinds, rubs, crushes," Latin mordere "to bite"). Related: Smarted; smarting.



late Old English smeart "painful, severe, stinging; causing a sharp pain," related to smeortan (see smart (v.)). Meaning "executed with force and vigor" is from c.1300. Meaning "quick, active, clever" is attested from c.1300, from the notion of "cutting" wit, words, etc., or else "keen in bargaining." Meaning "trim in attire" first attested 1718, "ascending from the kitchen to the drawing-room c.1880" [Weekley]. For sense evolution, cf. sharp (adj.).

In reference to devices, the sense of "behaving as though guided by intelligence" (e.g. smart bomb) first attested 1972. Smarts "good sense, intelligence," is first recorded 1968. Smart cookie is from 1948.



"sharp pain," c.1200, from sharp (adj.). Cf. cognate Middle Dutch smerte, Dutch smart, Old High German smerzo, German Schmerz "pain."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper