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What is the origin of the word "smithereens" as in the saying, "blasted to smithereens"?

Question #68888. Asked by gsd.
Last updated Sep 10 2021.

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romeomikegolf
Answer has 0 votes
romeomikegolf
21 year member
559 replies avatar

Answer has 0 votes.
A definition from Dictionary.com

From Irish Gaelic smidirn, diminutive of smiodar, small fragment.

link https://www.dictionary.com/browse/smithereens

Response last updated by gtho4 on Sep 10 2021.
Dec 25 2005, 12:25 AM
gmackematix
Answer has 7 votes
gmackematix
21 year member
3194 replies

Answer has 7 votes.
The Word Detective likes this word:
"Smithereens" is a great word meaning "small fragments" or "tiny bits," and is usually found in the phrases "blown to smithereens" or the alliterative "smashed to smithereens." A typical use of the word can be found in a Time magazine story about cosmology from 1976: "The result is another kind of supernova, a fantastic explosion that blows the star to smithereens, dispersing into space most of the remaining elements that it had manufactured during its lifetime."

"Smithereens" first appeared in English in 1829 in the form "smiddereens," and most likely was borrowed from the Irish "smidirin," meaning "small bit or fragment."
link http://www.word-detective.com/101404.html


Response last updated by gtho4 on Sep 10 2021.
Dec 25 2005, 5:03 AM
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zbeckabee
Answer has 18 votes
Currently Best Answer
zbeckabee
Moderator
18 year member
11752 replies avatar

Answer has 18 votes.

Currently voted the best answer.
"Smithereens" is a great word meaning "small fragments" or "tiny bits," and is usually found in the phrases "blown to smithereens" or the alliterative "smashed to smithereens."

It first appeared in English in 1829 in the form "smiddereens," and most likely was borrowed from the Irish "smidirin," meaning "small bit or fragment."
A typical use of the word can be found in a Time magazine story about cosmology from 1976: "The result is another kind of supernova, a fantastic explosion that blows the star to smithereens, dispersing into space most of the remaining elements that it had manufactured during its lifetime."

I would hazard a guess that the success of "smithereens" as a popular word derives at least in part from the "echoic" sound of the word itself. It's easy to imagine, for example, a waiter dropping a tray of plates and the bits of china making a ringing "een" sound as they scatter across the floor and bounce off nearby diners (who might make "een" sounds themselves). Incidentally, one of the things I miss about New York is that when such an incident would take place, the restaurant patrons would almost always applaud.

link http://www.word-detective.com/101404.html

Response last updated by Terry on Sep 15 2016.
Jul 27 2006, 8:19 AM
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guitargoddess star
Answer has 9 votes
guitargoddess star
21 year member
233 replies avatar

Answer has 9 votes.
'Smithereens' means simply, and always has, 'tiny fragments or pieces'. The first known use of the word was in 1829.

link http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0706/dictionary_men.php3

Jan 29 2008, 11:15 AM
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