verb (used without object)

to smile in an affected, smug, or offensively familiar way.


the facial expression of a person who smirks.

Origin of smirk

before 900; Middle English smirken (v.), Old English sme(a)rcian
Related formssmirk·er, nounsmirk·ing·ly, adverbun·smirk·ing, adjectiveun·smirk·ing·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for smirk

sneer, grin, beam, leer, simper

Examples from the Web for smirk

Contemporary Examples of smirk

Historical Examples of smirk

  • "I reckon Sim made the short on it," said Reuben with a smirk.

  • She felled him in the middle of a smirk, and seized the opportunity created.

    The Martian Cabal

    Roman Frederick Starzl

  • Dolores turned around with a smirk of biting ridicule on her face.

    Mayflower (Flor de mayo)

    Vicente Blasco Ibez

  • There was a smirk of pharisaical satisfaction on their faces.

    My New Curate

    P.A. Sheehan

  • Fortunately the bride, all smirk and blush, had just entered the room.


    Sir Walter Scott

British Dictionary definitions for smirk



a smile expressing scorn, smugness, etc, rather than pleasure


(intr) to give such a smile
(tr) to express with such a smile
Derived Formssmirker, nounsmirking, adjectivesmirkingly, adverb

Word Origin for smirk

Old English smearcian; related to smer derision, Old High German bismer contempt, bismerōn to scorn
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 smirk

Old English smearcian "to smile." No exact cognates in other languages, but probably related to smerian "to laugh at, scorn," from Proto-Germanic *smer-, *smar-, variant of PIE *smei- "to smile;" see smile (v.), which after c.1500 gradually restricted smirk to the unpleasant sense "smile affectedly; grin in a malicious or smug way." In some 18c. glossaries smirk is still simply "to smile." Related: Smirked; smirking. The noun is recorded by 1560s.


1550s, from smirk (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper