Definition of smarm in English:



  • 1British [no object] Behave in an ingratiating way in order to gain favour.

    ‘she had smarmed up to him in order to entrap him’
    • ‘‘I'll leave you two for a few moments to decide what you want,’ the man smarmed and then left to go and throw out some poor looking people.’
    • ‘He smarmed and sneered his way through his much anticipated new comedy.’
    • ‘But at least a large proportion of the crowd booed as he smarmed his way onto the rostrum, as was also the case at the Rugby League grand final.’
    • ‘‘Good afternoon, ladies’, he smarmed, cleansing his throat abruptly, cruising towards the startled snippets of feminine vagary with an outstretched, sinuous hand and an all too courtly demeanour.’
    • ‘Luke smarms around her in a glutinous way.’
    • ‘‘A… uh… word if I may,’ he smarms, sidling into Mission Control.’
    • ‘‘Wales must be delighted with the way they've hit back at England after the goal,’ he smarmed towards the end of the first half.’
    • ‘Looking her over carefully, Joe smarmed: ‘Judging from your skin, twenty; your hair, eighteen; and your figure, twenty five.’’
    • ‘He could rail and cajole and smarm and pontificate to enthusiastic foreign audiences about the evils of Communism in Angola and then pass the hat.’
    • ‘‘I am glad to see you after your lamentable performance for the Spain v Ukraine game’ he smarms.’
    • ‘Harry used to smarm round senior management, but he spoke abruptly to our long-in-the-tooth admin guy; directed him, and the trainees like me, to do his photocopying without a please or thank you.’
    • ‘Daria asked as the four of them, seated at the back of the room, watched as Rosaline sketched with great flourishes on a large sketchpad, posing dramatically for the girls sitting around her, cooing and smarming.’
    • ‘Rob smarmed his way through a ghastly cover of my primary-school favourite song, 1927's ‘If I could.’’
    • ‘This Government smarms all over the place with its little rules and regulations, and the spin that it keeps putting on people.’
    • ‘All I saw and heard were politically loaded questions with no discernible purpose while the team >smarmed their way through a restricted news content.’
    • ‘He plays smarm well, and his is the most interesting character in the film arguably.’
    • ‘Primetime television is to be consolidated into one twenty-five-year-long compendium spreading across a hundred and eighteen channels in forty countries, a media type smarmed earlier.’
    be obsequious to, be sycophantic to, be servile to, curry favour with, pay court to, play up to, crawl to, creep to, ingratiate oneself with, dance attendance on, fall over oneself for, kowtow to, toady to, truckle to, bow and scrape before, grovel before, cringe before, abase oneself before
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  • 2[with object] Smooth down (one's hair) with water, oil, or gel.

    ‘he had smarmed his hair down’
    • ‘By the end, he is smarming his hair down flat and wears a long leather coat.’


  • [mass noun] Ingratiating behaviour.

    ‘it takes a combination of smarm and confidence to persuade them’
    • ‘Despite their rhetoric, their smarm, their thin veneer of respectability, they are racists by any intelligent definition.’
    • ‘A student of smarm, he roamed the land dispensing jam tins of cash to people who at first glance appeared to be businesslike.’
    • ‘I say to Mr Tamihere that businesses can smell it, and they are smelling that sort of smarm a mile away.’
    • ‘Odd how it looks on a screen, free from all its euro-trash smarm slathered all over it.’
    • ‘In lesser hands, this film could've been hackneyed smarm.’
    • ‘Others will find the level of smarm suffocating, as every plot twist occasions a self-conscious musical outbreak, with the characters tunelessly expressing every little thought in their heads in song.’
    • ‘I can certainly picture myself hitting him over the head; he defines smarm.’
    • ‘I don't think he would've been very thrilled with life in the no-smoking smarm of the Tofu Era.’
    • ‘A poisson-out-of-water story that strings up Anglo-Franco Canadian tension without any social smarm.’
    • ‘Dang, and then I get back and they've got some pop smarm.’
    • ‘Laying the smarm on a bit thick, aren't we Howie?’
    • ‘I daren't even speculate on their devilish purposes… begone with your blinding lights and televisual smarm!’
    • ‘In combination with the dark, bass-heavy production, the performance is a stark contrast from the bubblegum smarm of the original, instead focusing on the song's essence: suicide and its extremes.’
    • ‘I think it's because he has a certain amount of smarm about him, perhaps it is just a reaction to that.’
    • ‘Did, like, Leno set off the smarm alarm or something?!!!’
    • ‘The smile in your face conceals a darkness in your heart, and there are still some in this green and pleasant land unwilling to let their knees buckle before your rapacious onslaught of smarm and spin.’
    • ‘And he's spraying smarm like the worst kind of cornered politician.’
    • ‘But he did it with a trademark smarm and overpowering obnoxiousness that left Giblets coming back for more!’
    • ‘He lacks style, he lacks smarm, he lacks sureness in his step.’
    • ‘It may be conscious, but it beats the smarm deployed by so many of their colleagues.’
    blandishments, honeyed words, smooth talk, soft words, flattery, cajolery, coaxing, wheedling, compliments
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Mid 19th century (originally dialect in the sense ‘smear, bedaub’): of unknown origin.