AskDefine | Define smile

Dictionary Definition

smile n : a facial expression characterized by turning up the corners of the mouth; usually shows pleasure or amusement [syn: smiling, grin, grinning]


1 change one's facial expression by spreading the lips, often to signal pleasure
2 express with a smile; "She smiled her thanks"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /smaɪl/, /smaIl/
  • Rhymes: -aɪl


  1. A happy face expression using mouth, but without producing voice.


a happy face expression using mouth, but without producing voice


  1. To make a small happy face expression using mouth, (without sound.)


to make a small happy face


Extensive Definition

In physiology, a smile is a facial expression formed by flexing those muscles most notably near both ends of the mouth. The smile can also be found around the eyes ("#Duchenne smile"; below). Among humans, it is customarily an expression denoting pleasure, happiness, or amusement, but can also be an involuntary expression of anxiety, in which case it can be known as a grimace. There is much evidence that smiling is a normal reaction to certain stimuli as it occurs regardless of culture. Happiness is most often the motivating cause of a smile. Among animals, the exposure of teeth, which may bear a resemblance to a smile, is often used as a threat or warning display - known as a snarl - or a sign of submission. In chimpanzees, it can also be a sign of fear.

Historical background

Many biologists think the smile originated as a sign of fear. Primalogist Signe Preuschoft traces the smile back over 30 million years of evolution to a "fear grin" stemming from monkeys and apes who often used barely clenched teeth to portray to predators that they were harmless. Biologists believe the smile has evolved differently among species and especially among humans.
Biology is not the only academic discipline that interprets the smile. Those who study kinesics view the smile as an affect display. It can communicate feelings such as: love, happiness, pride, contempt, and embarrassment. More info: The Psychology of Human Smile

Duchenne smile

A Duchenne smile contracts the zygomatic muscles of the cheek and eye, forming crow's feet. The crow's feet indicate that the smile is genuine and that the smiler is truly happy. It was discovered by and is named after Guillaume Duchenne.


Further reading

  • Conniff, R. (2007). What's behind a smile? Smithsonian Magazine, 38,46-53.
  • Miller, Professor George A., et. al. Overview for "smile." Retrieved 12 December 2003 from this page.
  • Ottenheimer, H.J. (2006). The anthropology of language: An introduction to linguistic anthropology. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworh.

Duchenne smile

  • Freitas-Magalhães, A. (2006). The Psychology of human smile. Oporto: University Fernando Pessoa Press.
  • Ekman, P., Davidson, R.J., & Friesen, W.V. (1990). The Duchenne smile: Emotional expression and brain psysiology II. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 342-353. Cited in: Russell and Fernandez-Dols, eds. (1997).
  • Russell and Fernandez-Dols, eds. (1997). The Psychology of Facial Expression. Cambridge. ISBN 0521587964.
smile in German: Lächeln
smile in Spanish: Sonrisa
smile in French: Sourire
smile in Hebrew: חיוך
smile in Indonesian: Senyum
smile in Italian: Riso (ridere)
smile in Japanese: 微笑み
smile in Norwegian Nynorsk: Smil
smile in Norwegian: Smil
smile in Polish: Śmiech
smile in Russian: Улыбка
smile in Simple English: Smile
smile in Finnish: Hymy
smile in Swedish: Leende
smile in Vietnamese: Cười
smile in Turkish: Tebessüm
smile in Yiddish: שמייכל
smile in Swedish: Smile
smile in Korean: 미소

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accost, address, be in heaven, be pleased, beam, bob, bow, bright smile, broad grin, caper, caracole, chirp, chirrup, crack a smile, curtsy, dance, delight, die with delight, ear-to-ear grin, embrace, feel happy, frolic, gambol, gleaming smile, glow, glowing smile, go into raptures, greeting, grin, grinning, hail, hand-clasp, handshake, hello, how-do-you-do, hug, idiotic grin, joy, kiss, laugh, lilt, nod, purr, radiate cheer, romp, salutation, salute, sardonic grin, simper, sing, skip, smile brightly, smile of recognition, smiling, smirk, sparkle, stupid grin, take great satisfaction, toothful grin, tread on air, wave, whistle
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