Definition of smear in English:



  • 1Coat or mark (something) messily or carelessly with a greasy or sticky substance.

    ‘his face was smeared with dirt’
    • ‘Her hair was in a mess and her arms were smeared with dirt.’
    • ‘The tiles on the floor and the walls are smeared with blood.’
    • ‘Her cap was smeared with flour, as well as her cheek.’
    • ‘His face was definitely smeared with oil and grease.’
    • ‘Our foreheads are smeared with ashes in the shape of a cross, a dramatic contrast to the cross made on our foreheads at baptism.’
    • ‘Her hand was smeared in blood, probably from tending wounds.’
    • ‘His hands are smeared with cement as he practices his bricklaying skills in preparation for constructing the homes that will bring families into the village.’
    • ‘His face was smeared with black ashes and he had several cuts on his arms.’
    • ‘Jack's and Trapper's muzzles and paws were smeared in red, and their normally brilliant white teeth were stained crimson.’
    • ‘Her cheeks were smeared with tears and dirt from the ground.’
    • ‘Her face was smeared with bright, colorful make-up.’
    • ‘Her mascara was smeared with tears seeping through her eyes, her face was swollen with one or two bruised and a few cuts.’
    • ‘Her hair, arms, legs, even her face was smeared with the blue dye of some wild berry, giving her the appearance of having been painted a brilliant shade of blue.’
    • ‘His mouth was smeared with blood and his canine teeth were overlapping his lips.’
    • ‘Her closed eyes were smeared with a gold makeup across the lids, and a double loop of pink, possibly coral beads fell loosely around her neck.’
    • ‘I notice with unease that the sleeves of the beige sweatshirt are smeared with blood.’
    • ‘The soldier's front was entirely swathed in stark white bandages; his face, hands and coat were smeared with blood and charred dirt.’
    • ‘Inside the restaurant the walls were smeared with grease and the floor covers were torn and hard to clean.’
    • ‘High humidity can cause an unabsorbed yolk sac, resulting in the chicks being smeared with yolk.’
    • ‘I had my children and four others clinging to my leg, my hair was wildly askew and my clothes were smeared with jam: every inch the harassed earth mother.’
    streak, smudge, stain, mark, soil, dirty
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    1. 1.1[with object and adverbial]Spread (a greasy or sticky substance) over something.
      ‘she smeared sunblock on her skin’
      • ‘Amy set the soon-to-be pizza crust in front of her children, who smeared the pasta sauce from a jar across it.’
      • ‘A greenish paste had been smeared over their faces and all visible skin.’
      • ‘A layer of clay can be smeared around the inside as a mortar/lining/gap-filler.’
      • ‘They smeared chocolate and vanilla ice cream all over each other's faces.’
      • ‘‘Honey,’ the therapist says as he smears a new substance onto my back.’
      • ‘That done, she smeared the thick, rough honey on the fresh bread, grimacing as the tastes conflicted.’
      • ‘All one has to do, they think, is to wear ratty clothes, smear one's face with dirt to look darker, wrap one's arms in red stained gauze, then go begging on the streets, and the money rolls in.’
      • ‘The man noticed, sneered, and then smeared some of the blood on his own face and arm.’
      • ‘On its distant, furthest peak, ascetics are said to enact their own funerals and smear themselves with funeral-pyre ash.’
      • ‘As he neared the end of his shots he took both hands and began to smear anything liquid over his face, hair, and chest.’
      • ‘Saionji smeared peanut butter on the other slice of bread, put the two pieces together and took a bite.’
      • ‘Then, when the cake is done, just smear this over the top, and bake for another 10 minutes.’
      spread, rub, daub, slap, slather, smother, plaster, cream, slick
      cover, coat, grease, lard
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    2. 1.2Messily blur the outline of (something such as writing or paint); smudge.
      ‘her lipstick was smeared’
      • ‘Overweight local opera would-be stars were splattered in mid-aria, and in wiping away the blue paint, it smeared and didn't come off.’
      • ‘The place of meeting was written in her red lipstick and was slightly smeared, but Delilah could manage to decipher its message.’
      • ‘Then he turned the paraglider tightly, circling until the rapidly nearing roofs of Mayrhofen began to smear like wet paint across my sight.’
      • ‘Her tears were flowing without any signs of an end and tiny droplets of them smeared a little of the ink on the letters.’
      • ‘She didn't completely understand why the sepia still photos looked like they'd been smudged, smeared or painted.’
      • ‘Riona had taken her tiara off, but her lipstick looked a bit smeared.’
  • 2Damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander.

    ‘someone was trying to smear her by faking letters’
    • ‘They're smearing Richard Clarke because they're afraid of the truth.’
    • ‘There's almost nothing you can do when people are determined to smear you like this to completely contain the damage.’
    • ‘We naturally assumed that ‘Bring it on’ meant Boyd had the guts to meet us face to face in a fair debate, rather than smearing us in a hit-and-run attack on the pages of his own newspaper.’
    • ‘Although now Nils is profuse in his apologies, Sylvia believes that he was a willing participant, trying to smear Sylvia so that he could take her job.’
    • ‘At the press conference, Tsai signed a statement promising not to abuse any person's character, smear anyone's reputation or engage in personal attacks.’
    sully, tarnish, besmirch, blacken, drag through the mire, drag through the mud, stain, taint, damage, defame, discredit, defile, vilify, malign, slander, libel, stigmatize, calumniate
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  • 1A mark or streak of a greasy or sticky substance.

    ‘there was an oil smear on his jacket’
    • ‘Across one cheek was a scrape; tiny smears of dried blood speckled her mottled skin below her eye.’
    • ‘He slid down the wall, leaving a smear of blood to mark his trail, he struggled to keep his eyes open as he saw a figure move towards him.’
    • ‘This is because the tubular orange or yellow flowers end with the petals opening wide to look like a mouth which has a large glossy black splodge on it that looks like a smear of sticky jam.’
    • ‘Sure enough, there on his pinkish finger was a smear of crimson blood.’
    • ‘On the roof were thick smears of blood from the dead and the wounded.’
    streak, smudge, daub, dab, spot, patch, blotch, blob
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  • 2A sample of tissue or other material taken from part of the body, spread thinly on a microscope slide for examination, typically for medical diagnosis.

    ‘the smears were stained for cryptosporidium’
    • ‘Immunophenotyping is beneficial clinically because in many situations variant types of benign and malignant lymphoid cells resemble one another in routinely stained tissue sections and smears.’
    • ‘Diagnosis in leishmaniasis depends on microscopic detection of amastigotes in smears of tissue aspirates or biopsy samples.’
    • ‘At external examination, blood smears on the body surface resulting from hematemesis or melena were present in 40 cases.’
    • ‘We certainly have the modern technology, and it is very simple these days - through buccal smears, tissue samples, and, of course, blood - to be extremely certain of parentage.’
    • ‘We observed ALs in peripheral blood smears during routine examination of smears selected for review by a pathologist.’
    1. 2.1British
      short for smear test
      • ‘What advice should be offered to a woman who has a normal colposcopy result after a smear shows low grade cervical abnormalities?’
      • ‘Editor Cuzick et al have reported that testing for human papilloma virus might be used for triage of women with low grade abnormal smears in the NHS cervical screening programmes.’
      • ‘A skin test and sputum smears for tuberculosis were negative.’
      • ‘In addition, sputum smears and cultures, immunologic assessments, and chest X-ray interpretations were performed without knowledge of treatment assignment.’
      • ‘Minerva was recently embroiled in a heated discussion about the merits of cervical screening using smears.’
  • 3A false accusation intended to damage someone's reputation.

    ‘the popular press were indulging in unwarranted smears’
    • ‘Secondly, many if not most false negative smears can be detected on re-examination, but what does this mean from the legal point of view?’
    • ‘YOu have to counter their smears, distractions with truth and relevance.’
    • ‘Prime Minister Tony Blair and his colleagues took Gilligan's report as a serious smear on their reputations.’
    • ‘This week, Cllr White reacted angrily to what she calls ‘the smears and untruths,’ levelled at her by Senator Nolan in last week's Nationalist.’
    • ‘John O'Neill enlisted to counter the smears of American servicemen in Vietnam.’
    • ‘She was forced out of the Calder Valley race earlier this month after three selection battles in which she was subjected to what she called ‘a campaign of smears and vilification’.’
    • ‘Yesterday The Guardian printed a report by John Sutherland branding bloggers of unfairly smearing Rachel Corries' good name - the article then proceeded to indulge in some choice smears of its own.’
    false accusation, false report, false imputation, slander, libel, lie, untruth, slur, defamation, calumny, vilification
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  • 4Mountaineering
    An insecure foothold.

    ‘soon you're eyeballing the top, just one smear away’


Old English smierwan (verb), smeoru ‘ointment, grease’, of Germanic origin; related to German schmieren (verb), Schmer (noun).