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smart aleck

[al-ik] /ˈæl ɪk/
an obnoxiously conceited person.
a wise guy.
Origin of smart aleck
1860-65, Americanism; generic use of Aleck, nickname for Alexander
Related forms
smart-alecky, smart-aleck, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for smart-aleck
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Before he got there he started a guessing contest in that smart-aleck burg.

    The Modern Railroad Edward Hungerford
  • "The young squirt was always a smart-aleck and a blow-hard," he said.

    Poor White Sherwood Anderson
  • They gave him a month in the barracks to think over how smart-aleck hed been, and then Jimmie was out again.

    Famous Flyers David Goodger (
  • Well, it happened that the end of last week a smart-aleck of a fellow came in, an Andalusian.

    Their Son; The Necklace Eduardo Zamacois
British Dictionary definitions for smart-aleck

smart aleck

noun (pl) smart alecks
(informal) an irritatingly oversmart person
Derived Forms
smart-aleck, smart-alecky, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Aleck, Alec, short for Alexander
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for smart-aleck

smart aleck


1865, of unknown origin, perhaps in reference to Aleck Hoag, notorious pimp, thief, and confidence man in New York City in early 1840s [Barnhart]. See smart (adj.). Related: Smart-alecky.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for smart-aleck



  1. Smooth and flattering; unctuously ingratiating; fulsome: a rather smarmy doctor and a highly officious nurse
  2. Rich and sonorous; orotund and fruity; plummy: an announcer with a smarmy voice
  3. Smug and self-righteous: Uncle Sam's Smarmy Look Into Employee Sex Lives

[1924+; origin unknown; since the earliest attested uses have to do with hair oil, it may be a vague blend of smooth, smear, palm oil, cream, etc]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with smart-aleck

smart aleck

An impudent or obnoxiously self-assertive individual, a wise guy, as in New teachers often have a hard time coping with the smart alecks in their classes. This expression, dating from the mid-1800s, probably alluded to a person of this description who was named Alec or Alexander, but his identity has been lost.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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