Definition of smear in US English:



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

    ‘his face was smeared with dirt’
    • ‘The soldier's front was entirely swathed in stark white bandages; his face, hands and coat were smeared with blood and charred dirt.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘High humidity can cause an unabsorbed yolk sac, resulting in the chicks being smeared with yolk.’
    • ‘Her hair was in a mess and her arms were smeared with dirt.’
    • ‘Her face was smeared with bright, colorful make-up.’
    • ‘His face was definitely smeared with oil and grease.’
    • ‘Her hand was smeared in blood, probably from tending wounds.’
    • ‘Her cap was smeared with flour, as well as her cheek.’
    • ‘Jack's and Trapper's muzzles and paws were smeared in red, and their normally brilliant white teeth were stained crimson.’
    • ‘Our foreheads are smeared with ashes in the shape of a cross, a dramatic contrast to the cross made on our foreheads at baptism.’
    • ‘His face was smeared with black ashes and he had several cuts on his arms.’
    • ‘The tiles on the floor and the walls are smeared with blood.’
    • ‘Inside the restaurant the walls were smeared with grease and the floor covers were torn and hard to clean.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I notice with unease that the sleeves of the beige sweatshirt are smeared with blood.’
    • ‘Her mascara was smeared with tears seeping through her eyes, her face was swollen with one or two bruised and a few cuts.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 cheeks were smeared with tears and dirt from the ground.’
    streak, smudge, stain, mark, soil, dirty
    cover, coat, grease, lard
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    1. 1.1 Spread (a greasy, oily, or sticky substance) over something.
      ‘Barbara smeared peanut butter on a slice of bread’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Amy set the soon-to-be pizza crust in front of her children, who smeared the pasta sauce from a jar across it.’
      • ‘Saionji smeared peanut butter on the other slice of bread, put the two pieces together and took a bite.’
      • ‘That done, she smeared the thick, rough honey on the fresh bread, grimacing as the tastes conflicted.’
      • ‘A greenish paste had been smeared over their faces and all visible skin.’
      • ‘Then, when the cake is done, just smear this over the top, and bake for another 10 minutes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A layer of clay can be smeared around the inside as a mortar/lining/gap-filler.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As he neared the end of his shots he took both hands and began to smear anything liquid over his face, hair, and chest.’
      cover, coat, grease, lard
      spread, rub, daub, slap, slather, smother, plaster, cream, slick
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    2. 1.2 Messily blur the outline of (something such as writing or paint); smudge.
      ‘her lipstick was smeared’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The place of meeting was written in her red lipstick and was slightly smeared, but Delilah could manage to decipher its message.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her tears were flowing without any signs of an end and tiny droplets of them smeared a little of the ink on the letters.’
      • ‘Then he turned the paraglider tightly, circling until the rapidly nearing roofs of Mayrhofen began to smear like wet paint across my sight.’
  • 2Damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander.

    ‘someone was trying to smear her by faking letters’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Across one cheek was a scrape; tiny smears of dried blood speckled her mottled skin below her eye.’
    streak, smudge, daub, dab, spot, patch, blotch, blob
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  • 2A sample of material spread thinly on a microscope slide for examination, typically for medical diagnosis.

    ‘the smears were stained for cryptosporidium’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Diagnosis in leishmaniasis depends on microscopic detection of amastigotes in smears of tissue aspirates or biopsy samples.’
    • ‘We observed ALs in peripheral blood smears during routine examination of smears selected for review by a pathologist.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At external examination, blood smears on the body surface resulting from hematemesis or melena were present in 40 cases.’
  • 3A false accusation intended to damage someone's reputation.

    ‘the media were indulging in unwarranted smears’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘Prime Minister Tony Blair and his colleagues took Gilligan's report as a serious smear on their reputations.’
    • ‘YOu have to counter their smears, distractions with truth and relevance.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘John O'Neill enlisted to counter the smears of American servicemen in Vietnam.’
    • ‘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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  • 4Climbing
    An insecure foothold.


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