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A smirk is a
smile A smile is formed primarily by flexing the muscle Muscle is a soft tissue found in most animals. Muscle cells contain protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of one or more long chains of amino ac ...

smile
evoking insolence, scorn, or offensive smugness, falling into the category of what
Desmond Morris Desmond John Morris FLS ''hon. caus.'' (born 24 January 1928) is an English zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is usually regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the Animal ...
described as Deformed-compliment Signals. A smirk may also be an affected, ingratiating smile, as in Mr Bennet's description of
Mr Wickham
Mr Wickham
as making smirking love to all his new in-laws in the novel ''
Pride and Prejudice ''Pride and Prejudice'' is an 1813 novel of manners A novel of manners is work of fiction that re-creates a social world, conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society. The ...

Pride and Prejudice
''.


Etymology

The word derives from
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
''smearcian'', via
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
''smirken''. It is from the same root as ''
smile A smile is formed primarily by flexing the muscle Muscle is a soft tissue found in most animals. Muscle cells contain protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of one or more long chains of amino ac ...
'', from Proto-Germanic ''*smar-'', but with a velar root extension ''
-k-
-k-
'' (with intensive or frequentative function) particular to English also found in ''
talk Talk may refer to: Communication * Communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, groups through the use of suffic ...
'' (from the root of '' tell'') and ''
stalk Stalk or stalking may refer to: Behaviour * Stalk, the stealthy approach (phase) of a predator towards its prey * Stalking, an act of intrusive behaviour or unwanted attention towards a person * Deer stalking, the pursuit of deer for sport Biology ...
'' (from the root of ''
steal Steal may refer to: * Theft, the illegal act of Borrowing another person's property without giving it back and without them knowing * The gaining of a stolen base in baseball ** the 2004 ALCS stolen base in Game Four, see Dave Roberts (outfielder)# ...
'') etc. The specific meaning of a mocking or unpleasant, malicious smile or grin develops in
Early Modern English Early Modern English or Early New English (sometimes abbreviated EModE, EMnE, or EME) is the stage of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient th ...
, but until the 18th century, it could still be used in the generic sense "to smile".


Historical examples

George Puttenham George Puttenham (1529–1590) was an English writer and literary critic. He is generally considered to be the author of the influential handbook on poetry and rhetoric, ''The Arte of English Poesie'' (1589). Family and early life Puttenham was ...
in the 16th century described what he called “a mock with a scornful countenance as in some smiling sort looking aside”. "A constant smirk upon the face, and a whiffling activity of the body, are strong indications of futility," the
Earl of Chesterfield Earl of Chesterfield, in the Derbyshire, County of Derby, was a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1628 for Philip Stanhope, 1st Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope, 1st Baron Stanhope. He had already been created Baron Stanhop ...

Earl of Chesterfield
once wrote in a letter to his son. German-born psychiatrist
Fritz Perls Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls (July 8, 1893 – March 14, 1970), better known as Fritz Perls, was a German-born psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Perls coined the term ' Gestalt therapy' to identify the form of psychotherapy ...

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'”.F. Perls, ''Gestalt Therapy Verbatim'' (1973) p. 79


See also

*''
Schadenfreude ''Schadenfreude'' (; ; 'harm-joy') is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. Schadenfreude is a complex emotion Emotions are biolo ...
'' *
Sneer A sneer is a facial expression of scorn or disgust characterized by a slight raising of one corner of the upper lip, known also as curling the lip or turning up the nose. In ''The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals'', Charles Darwin defin ...


References

{{Reflist
English wordsArticles that are about English language words, as opposed to being about the things described. English words and phrases, Words Words {{CatAutoTOC ...
Facial expressions