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The word derives from Old English smearcian, via Middle English smirken. It is from the same root as smile, from Proto-Germanic *smar-, but with a velar root extension -k- (with intensive or frequentative function) particular to English also found in talk (from the root of tell) and stalk (from the root of steal) etc.
German-born psychiatrist Fritz Perls considered the most difficult patients to be the clever know-it-alls, recognisable by what he called “a specific kind of smile, a kind of smirk, a smirk that says, 'Oh, you're an idiot! I know better. I can outwit you and control you'”.
- Desmond Morris, Manwatching (1977) p. 188-9
- B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1996) p. 572
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (PEL 1975) p. 341
- Quoted in B. Ford ed., The Age of Shakespeare (1973) p. 72
- Tegg, William (1861). Lord Chesterfield's Advice To His Son On Men And Manners. London, England: Bibliotheca Bodleiana.
- F. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1973) p. 79
- Konstantinou, Lee (2011). Wipe That Smirk Off Your Face: Postironic literature and the politics of character (Thesis). Stanford University.