smut

[ smuht ]
/ smʌt /

noun

a particle of soot; sooty matter.
a black or dirty mark; smudge.
indecent language or publications; obscenity.
Plant Pathology.
  1. a disease of plants, especially cereal grasses, characterized by the conversion of affected parts into black, powdery masses of spores, caused by fungi of the order Ustilaginales.
  2. a fungus causing this disease.

verb (used with object), smut·ted, smut·ting.

to soil or smudge.

verb (used without object), smut·ted, smut·ting.

to become affected with smut, as a plant.

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decorum

Origin of smut

1580–90; akin to earlier smit (Old English smitte), by association with smudge, smutch

OTHER WORDS FROM smut

an·ti·smut, adjectiveun·smut·ted, adjective

Words nearby smut

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does smut mean?

Smut is obscene or pornographic material, including pictures and writing.

Where does smut come from?

Smut is first cited for a type of disease which makes fungus appear black. The name is related to smut, a 16th-century verb meaning “smudge” or “blacken” and it gave rise to the noun smut, a “stain” or “soot.”

The word’s underlying notions of decay or darkness doubled as a metaphor for “indecent or obscene” content, especially that type of language in early history. Smut, for this sense, is found in the late 1690s while smutty occurs earlier, in the 1660s.

By the 20th century, smut had especially taken on the sense of sexual obscenity (i.e., pornographic material), in both words and images. James Joyce’s Ulysses was censored in the U.S. in the 1920s as it was considered smutty. Now, it’s considered one of the great works of the English language.

And indeed, it seems smut underwent something of a transformation in the late 20th century as more aesthetic value was seen in smutty content. The British Smut comics series were launched in 1989, filled with adult content. In the 1990s, amateur erotica authors increasingly distinguished between good smut and bad smut in their work. Smut has gone on as a signifier for more pornographic scenes in or works of fanfiction too.

Search interest for smut was at a historic high around 2004–05 after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were issuing hefty fines on broadcasters for displaying smut, notably prompted by Janet Jackson’s breast exposure at the Super Bowl and U2 Bono’s use of f**k on the Howard Stern Show.

How is smut used in real life?

What’s considered smut is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder, but use of the word smut tends to be more colorful than, say, just calling something obscene, vulgar, profane, or pornographic.

Smut also still characterizes some fungal diseases, such as corn smut.

Note

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.

Example sentences from the Web for smut

British Dictionary definitions for smut

smut
/ (smʌt) /

noun

verb smuts, smutting or smutted

Derived forms of smut

smutty, adjectivesmuttily, adverbsmuttiness, noun

Word Origin for smut

Old English smitte; related to Middle High German smitze; associated with smudge, smutch
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

Scientific definitions for smut

smut
[ smŭt ]

Any of various bacidiomycete fungi that are parasitic on plants and are distinguished by the black, powdery masses of spores that appear as sooty smudges on the affected plant parts. Smuts are parasitic chiefly on cereal grasses like corn and wheat and can cause enormous damage to crops.
Any of the various plant diseases caused by smuts, such as corn smut.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.