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Are you a Smart Cookie or Too Smart for your own good?

Today we take a look at the word “smart.” If someone says you are smart, what do they mean? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

The answer is not as easy as you might think because the word smart can have many meanings. Someone could say you look smart or are dressed smartly. That means they like what you are wearing and the way you look. But if something smarts, it can be unkind or hurtful, either physically or mentally. If you trip over a chair and fall, you might shout, “Ouch! That smarts!” The most common meaning of smart is to be intelligent or clever.

There are many ways to describe smart people. They can be called "bright" or "sharp" or even a "smart cookie."

Someone who is "as sharp as a tack" is very clever and a quick thinker.

Be careful not to be a called a "smartypants" though. This is actually a way of someone telling you that you just think you are clever, but actually you're not. Different people have different ways of being smart. Some people are considered street-smart. People who have street-smarts may not have a strong education or college degree, but they have something just as valuable – the ability to use their experiences in many different situations. They are good at dealing with people and problems in the real world. Other people might be book-smart. Someone who is book-smart knows a lot about different subjects from studying. Book-smart people are well-read. You can also describe them as a "walking encyclopaedia" – just like an encyclopaedia, they seem to have information about everything.

If you have attended school for many years and have many degrees, people might call you book-smart.

If you are too smart for your own good then you believe that you know something you really don't, which could get you in trouble.

It’s not very nice to call someone "dumb" or stupid, so English speakers often use idioms to describe such people. For example, someone who is not the sharpest tool in the shed is not very smart.

If someone doesn't know something, then they are ignorant of it. For example, "Toby is a great artist, but he is ignorant when it comes to math and science."

In English, the expression ignorance is bliss means that if you don't know about something, you don't worry about it. For example, "Jeremy never watches the news, because he believes that ignorance is bliss."

However, the opposite is often true: the more you know, the better off you are. This idea is expressed by the common expression, knowledge is power.


  • Can you think of any other words for smart?

  • Do you enjoy reading books?

  • Which is your favourite?

  • Do you consider yourself as book-smart or street-smart?

  • Are there any expressions or phrases in your language that are used to talk about smart or not so smart people?

  • Which expression from this article do you think you will use in the future?

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