General English

  • noun an act of hitting someone, especially a child, with your hand flat
  • verb to hit someone with your hand flat


  • noun heroin. Originally an American term, the word spread to Britain and Australia at the time of the Vietnam War. It is derived from the Yiddish shmek, meaning a sniff, whiff or taste, reinforced by the English word’s suggestion of a sudden, violent effect.
  • symbolH

Origin & History of “smack”

English has four separate words smack. The oldest, ‘taste’ (OE), is now mainly used metaphorically (as in smack of ‘suggest’). It has relatives in German geschmack, Dutch smaak, Swedish smak, and Danish smag ‘taste’, and may be distantly linked to Lithuanian smagus ‘pleasing’.

Smack ‘hit’ (16th c.) at first meant ‘open the lips noisily’, and was borrowed from middle Low German or Middle Dutch smacken, which no doubt originated in imitation of the noise made. It was not used for ‘hit with the palm of the hand’ until the mid 19th century. The slang use of the derivative smacker for ‘money’ originated in the USA around the end of world War I.

Smack ‘small sailing boat’ (17th c.) was borrowed from Dutch smak, a word of unknown origin. And smack ‘heroin’ (20th c.) is probably an alteration of schmeck ‘heroin or other drug’ (20th c.), which in turn comes from Yiddish schmeck ‘sniff’.