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For the financial derivatives markets term, see volatility smile.
A smirk

A smirk is a smile evoking insolence, scorn, or offensive smugness, falling into the category of what Desmond Morris described as Deformed-Compliments Signals.[1]

A smirk may also be an affected, ingratiating smile,[2] as in Mr Bennet's description of Mr Wickham as making smirking love to all his new in-laws in the novel Pride and Prejudice.[3]


The term has been derived from the Middle English smirken, and linked to Old English terms for smiling and for derision.[4]

Historical examples[edit]

George Puttenham in the 16th century described what he called “a mock with a scornful countenance as in some smiling sort looking aside”.[5]

"A constant smirk upon the face, and a whiffling activity of the body, are strong indications of futility," the Earl of Chesterfield once wrote in a letter to his son.[6]


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'”.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Desmond Morris, Manwatching (1977) p. 188-9
  2. ^ B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1996) p. 572
  3. ^ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (PEL 1975) p. 341
  4. ^ The Free Dictionary
  5. ^ Quoted in B. Ford ed., The Age of Shakespeare (1973) p. 72
  6. ^[dead link]
  7. ^ F. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1973) p. 79

Further Reading[edit]

L. Konstantinou, Wipe That Smirk Off Your Face (2011)