I have heard several people using the word "oversmart" or "over smart" to indicate that person is trying to act extra smartly. Is this a correct word? Does it make any sense?

  • 1
    What has your research shown? Are they native speakers? Where are they from? Nov 9, 2021 at 13:53
  • Nopes, they are not native speakers. I am not sure whether people use this word in US or not
    – daniel
    Nov 9, 2021 at 15:22
  • Too act smartly means to act quickly, without delay. What sense of smart do you mean? It can mean clever, or intelligent, or insolent. Nov 9, 2021 at 18:10
  • Never heard it in this sense (or any other sense) in the US. I kind of like it, though.
    – cruthers
    Nov 9, 2021 at 20:38
  • It's not a standard English word, but I've heard it used to mean using difficult vocabulary to appear smarter, or to confuse people into thinking the topic is more complex than it really is.
    – gotube
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


"Oversmart" is not a word that I have come across before (appreciating that language changes all the time/over time, and that I am not the Lord and Arbiter of All English).

It feels like a business buzzword—possibly a contraction of "overly smart"—for which I presume the intention is to convey one of two opinions, in a mildly disparaging manner:

  1. either that the person has devised a complex solution to a problem, where a simpler solution is apparent;
  2. or that the person thinks they are being cleverer than they actually are; for instance, they may be attempting to win an argument with a person by attempting to confuse them, but have underestimated their target's ability to understand (or recognise the attempt).

The first option can potentially be softened to overengineered (when describing the solution) or overthinking (when describing the process of coming up with the solution). This is possibly where the over- prefix has come from. For example:

  • "You are overthinking the problem." (especially in cases of decision paralysis)
  • "He is overthinking it."
  • "You have overengineered the solution."
  • "You are overengineering the solution."
  • "She has overengineered the solution."
  • "The solution is overengineered."

The second might simply be better inferred with too clever, e.g. :

  • "You are too clever by half" (or sometimes "too clever by far")
  • "She is too clever by half"
  • "You are too clever for your own good" (note a possible veiled threat of escalation/retaliation here)
  • "He is too clever for his own good"

However, if this is a business buzzword, and it is being used in your line of business, you may just be better off using that term amongst your peers, until it falls out of favour.

PS. Ngram suggests that it isn't very widely used (I always compare to "the", which hits about 6%)... Google Ngram, oversmart Google Ngram, offered alternatives

Trends suggest only occasional spikes (at least in the in the US): Google Trends (US)

A bit more interest in India: Google Trends (India)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .