phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Smart Alec, smart aleck

Posted by ESC on June 24, 2000

In Reply to: Smart Alec posted by Bob on June 17, 2000

: : Where does this phrase derive?

: : Thank you

: : PaulB

: America, about 1865. No specific Alec, tho.

SMART ALECK - "If there ever lived a real 'smart Aleck,' an Alexander so much of an obnoxiously conceited know-it-all that his name became proverbial, no record of him exists. The term can be traced back to about the 1860s and is still frequently used for a wise guy today. The original 'smart aleck' may have been at least clever enough to cover up all traces of his identity." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

".Its first recorded appearance in print was in a Carson City, Nevada, newspaper in 1862. But history doesn't record who the first 'smart alec' was. Many years later there was a prodigiously vain figure on the New York literary scene called Alec - Alexander Woollcott - but the expression 'smart alec' was well established long before his time." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).