General English

  • noun a dirty mark
  • noun a small amount of something put on glass for examining under a microscope
  • noun words about someone which are not true but which are meant to harm his or her reputation
  • verb to spread something roughly over a surface
  • verb to make dirty marks
  • verb to hurt someone’s reputation by saying things which are not true

General Science

  • noun a sample of soft tissue such as blood or mucus taken from a patient and spread over a glass slide to be examined under a microscope


  • verb to hit the ball powerfully but perhaps inelegantly
    Citation ‘Chris Gayle smeared the erratic Indian seamers to various corners while Ramnaresh Sarwan and Bravo thwarted India’s bid to fight back’ (Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, Cricinfo Magazine July 2006)


  • In TV or fax, a form of distortion in which objects appear to be extended horizontally beyond their usual boundaries, with concomitant blurring. Also called smearing.


  • noun a sample of soft tissue, e.g. blood or mucus, taken from a person and spread over a glass slide to be examined under a microscope

Origin & History of “smear”

Smear comes from a prehistoric Germanic *smerwjan, which also produced German schmieren, Dutch smeren, Swedish smörja, and Danish smøre. The Swedish and Danish words for ‘butter’, smör and smør, come from the same source (the former is the first element in the compound smörgåsbord ‘open-sandwich table’, literally ‘butter goose table’, from which English gets smorgasbord (19th c.)). Also closely related are Irish smir ‘marrow’ and Greek smúris ‘polishing powder’ (source of English emery (15th c.)).