smash hit

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a person or thing that is overwhelmingly successful or popular: Both the play and the movie based on it were smash hits.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does smash hit mean?

A smash hit is a wildly successful piece of media or entertainment, especially songs, movies and TV, and musicals. It’s broadened to refer to anything that’s very popular.

How is smash hit pronounced?

[ smash hit ]

Where does smash hit come from?

We’ve been using the word hit to describe a success of some kind since the early 1800s. Hit, here, nods to hitting the mark, or succeeding at a specific task. The word is especially associated with hit records or TV shows.

Since at least the 1900s, smash has been used with various senses of “excellence” or a “great sense.” Think: You look absolutely smashing

The two words combine their power in the phrase smash hit, found as early as an October 1923 Variety headline about two, big-selling Broadway productions.

By the 1940s, the phrase had taken off in reviews of plays, songs, musicals, and books in publications from Life to Billboard. Since then, seldom a headline hasn’t called the 1990–2000s Harry Potter books or the 2015 Hamilton musical smash hits.

How is smash hit used in real life?

Smash hit is still widely used in the entertainment industry in headlines about and reviews of standout songs, movies, musicals, books, or shows. Industry publications and fans alike use the phrase, almost to the point some might consider it clichéd.

As the phrase has aged, smash hit has become common outside of just entertainment. Anything from jewelry and foods (remember the Cronut?) to new smartphones and online video series can be smash hits as long as they considered a big success—has gone viral.

More examples of smash hit:

Lifetime movie The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel has proven a smash hit for the network—their biggest film debut in four years in fact— as 2.7 million watched it on its April 11th premiere, and it currently boasts 13.4 million total views total.
—Antonia Blyth, Deadline, May 2020


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use smash hit in a sentence

Other Idioms and Phrases with smash hit

smash hit

An outstanding success, as in She was a smash hit in the role of the governess, or His first book was a smash hit but this one isn't doing well. [c. 1920]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.