I faced the following sentence:

You really can’t say a 4.1GHz FX-8350 is going to smoke a 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K because in a hell of a lot of workloads the 3.5GHz Core i7 is going to dominate.

I can guess that 'smoke' is similar to the word 'win', but is it right? What is the exact shade of meaning?

I appreciate getting the russian translation.

  • 3
    The Russian translation would be something like уничтожать, but not in the literal sense.
    – Alex K
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:07
  • 8
    verb transitive Slang 5 b. To defeat decisively, as in a competition. thefreedictionary.com/smoke
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:10
  • Ofk, I tried. But I wasn't satisfacted. It'd be great to find the precise meaning, the most accurate synonym. :)
    – Furcht
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:14

6 Answers 6


You have it right; "smoke" can be used to mean "win" (or maybe even, "win easily," or "win decisively").

When talking about lopsided contests, frequently-used slang verbs fall into a few different categories. For example, there's the word beat, along with its synonyms (such as drub, thrash, whip, and trounce – all of these words can be found in headlines, articles, and recaps of sporting events, elections, and business rivalries).

Another category would be metaphorical pressure from above, giving us words like stomp and crush.

Furthermore, when the contest involves blazing speed (such as races between sprinters or microprocessors), many of the verbs deal with fire, such as smoke, burn, or torch. Here are a few examples from recent news articles:

the next-generation Samsung Exynos 7420 chip, which is said to power these newest flagship phones, burns the competition with respect to 3D performance

He [Jeff Gordon] torched the field with 13 wins, which nearly doubled the next-best driver

"This is going to be a great game going against a team like that," Beckham said shortly after he burned the Dolphins with a seven-catch, 166 yard, two-touchdown masterpiece

  • 1
    As mentioned below, "smoke" originally referred to killing someone by shooting them (with "smoke" referring to the residual smoke from guns at the time). I would suggest another category of these metaphorical verbs related to killing. Words such as "kill, murder, choke, etc." Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 14:18
  • 3
    @JeremyFelix - I'll grant you that kill is sometimes used, particularly in a lopsided contest. That said, murder, while not unheard of, is comparatively rare, I think, while choke usually has another meaning altogether in the context of sports.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 21:51

To smoke someone originally meant (and still does mean) to shoot them to death with a gun. The reference was to the smoke coming from the weapon's muzzle. This colorful term has come to mean "defeat soundly, trounce".

  • 7
    Wow, I never knew. My assumption was always the same as @Jasper's, i.e. that it was to do with cars.
    – AndyT
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 9:37
  • 2
    I think both meanings of "to smoke" could have arisen independently.
    – user151841
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:28
  • 3
    @user151841: . You haven't provided any evidence for your claim that to smoke (to outperform significantly) was not a figurative use which developed from the meaning "to kill with a gun" but an independent development. We often use words that mean to beat or thrash, or even to kill, in competition contexts. How did you guys do against Central High School in Friday's game? -- We killed them! You need to find some attestations.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 11:37
  • 2
    Dust is not smoke. Don't know where you have gotten the idea that opinions, wherever they're presented, don't need to have some supporting argument or evidence. That's a new one.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 14:29
  • 2
    You're spinning your wheels.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 15:09

When I hear this expression, I think of two possible metaphors:

Two cars are drag racing on a dirt road. Carl's Camaro is much faster than Mary's Miata. The Camaro quickly gets ahead of the Miata. Both cars "kick up" dust. Mary's Miata is literally in a dust cloud that Carl's Camaro "kicked up". The Miata is figuratively "eating" the Camaro's dust. In other words, the Camaro "dusts" the Miata.

The dust metaphor can be stretched a bit to "smoke": Either the Camaro is burning a little oil, or Carl smokes cigarettes, or Carl spins his tires (causing the tires to give off smoke). In other words, Carl's car "smokes" Mary's car.

Two chips are racing to complete a task. The i486 is much faster than the i286. You could "overclock" the i286 to make it go faster, but the i286 might overheat. If you overclocked the i286 enough to keep up, the i286 might literally burn up -- it would literally start to smoke. Even if you did not try to destroy the i286, the huge difference in the test performance could be metaphorically described as "The i486 smoked the i286."


The New Oxford American Dictionary says:

3 [ with obj. ] informal kill (someone) by shooting.

• defeat overwhelmingly in a fight or contest.

That's a pretty exact definition; I have nothing to add to it.

  • I'll have to downvote, as this definition is not exhaustive enough to cover the example; one processor cannot 'shoot' another processor!
    – cst1992
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 7:48
  • 3
    @cst1992, did you read the second part? "Defeat overwhelmingly in a fight or contest"? That is the exact definition; as for specifically what "contest" is being referred to, that could be explained separately but is dependent on the author's intent and isn't contained in the actual meaning of the word.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 7:59
  • If you look at the start of the sentence "You can't really say..." it becomes clear the author is actually using the precise meaning above—in other words, the 4.1 GHz core is not going to defeat the other core overwhelmingly (despite the higher speed rating indicating the 4.1 GHz is superior by some specific measure ) because in many cases the second mentioned core would compare favorably with the first. Hence the defeat would not be overwhelming (assuming that the 4.1 GHz core would win at all which is not strictly specified in that sentence.)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 8:03
  • From background information, the 4.1 GHz core is slower. I agree, that 'defeat in a contest(such as a benchmark) would fit, but then I suggest you put only that in your answer, and not the first one. It's confusing.
    – cst1992
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 8:19
  • 1
    @cst1992: I think not only is this answer not in the least confusing - it's significantly improved by providing the first definition. Which is itself metaphorical, but since the second definition arises from the first, it's very helpful for learners to see the logical semantic progression from informal kill -> [by shooting, with associated gunsmoke] -> defeat overwhelmingly. Without that connection being made explicitly, an nns might feel like he's having to learn a completely different word, rather than a simple "extended meaning". Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 15:51

In plain English the meaning is as follows:

"A 4.1GHz FX-8350 is not necessarily going to make your computer run faster than a 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K, because in many real-life applications the 3.5GHz Core i7 is actually the faster processor."

  • 2
    -1, I don't know that that's a particularly good phrasing, and it definitely does not explain the meaning of 'smoke'.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 9:24
  • @DCShannon- You are correct. I have re-phrased the statement, which I hope is now more clear, while other posters have covered the etymology of the word "smoke." Thank you for your comment. Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 13:05

Smoking could mean better benchmarks (what you get when you run programs like Prime95, Furmark etc.) or better real-life experience (better stability, better single-core performance, etc.).

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