Learning a language’s grammatical concepts is arguably one of the most difficult things about learning any language. For example, for anyone who has ever learned a foreign language before, you know how difficult it is to memorize verb conjugations, different forms of pronouns, lists of noun rules, and various other grammar rules. And if you have ever learned more than one other language, it can be very easy to get them confused.
Welcome to English, a language that is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master due to the complexity of its rules and the fact that it actually breaks its own rules more often than not. The exceptions often outnumber the rules, and it can be very hard to keep track of what is right and what is wrong, especially if you find yourself working with several different groups of people with their own colloquialisms or slangs. English lends itself to several common grammar mistakes that beginners and experienced English speakers alike make often.
In this article, let’s explore the verb “to smite”, learn its proper use, how to use its past tense, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.
Your writing, at its best
Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant
To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word smite can be defined as, “to strike sharply or heavily especially with the hand or an implement held in the hand”. A secondary definition is, “to kill or severely injure by smiting” or “to attack or afflict suddenly and injuriously”.
Overall, there are seven definitions of the word “to smite”, both in transitive and intransitive forms. The intransitive form is defined as, “to deliver or deal a blow with or as if with the hand or something held”.
Part of what makes English such a difficult language to master is that no matter where you look, there are rules, and then there are exceptions to those rules. For example, the common rule for making the past tense in English is to add “-d” or “-ed” to a verb to give it the past tense. For example, the verb cook becomes cooked, and the verb bake becomes baked. In both situations, you either add the “-ed” or the “-d” suffix and the word is past tense.
To correctly form the past tense of the word smite, rather than just adding a suffix, you actually have to change the spelling. Instead of “smited”, the correct word is now “smote”.
Now, you may ask, is smited an actual word? What about smit or any other forms of the past tense?
When asking whether or not something is a real word, what you are really asking is whether or not people use it often enough for it to be considered correct. The reason for this distinction is that language is directed by culture, not the other way around. The words people use in common conversation eventually become correct even if they are not considered correct by a dictionary. For example, the word selfie was added to several dictionaries a few years ago due to its prevalence in context and in culture.
The History and Origin of the Word
One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from. A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English. According to EtymOnline.com, the word smite first entered English in the middle of the twelfth century by way of an Old English word “smitan”, which is attested only as “to daub, smear on, defile”. The word came from the Proto-Germanic word “smitan”, which in turn is Swedish and Danish in origin.
Many verbs (and especially those with irregular forms) actually get their roots in rather modern western European languages from the medieval time period, rather than many nouns which derive from more traditional and ancient languages such as Latin and Greek. The derived irregularity is a result of a more convoluted etymology.
Examples of the Word in Context
Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly. Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation. Here are some common examples of the word “to smite” in common conversation:
“There are many times in the Bible where the word smite is used to describe what God did to those who opposed him.”
“To smite someone is a bit dramatic, don’t you think?”
“The tribe was smote with an affliction that led to the deaths of over forty percent of the people living there.”
Synonyms for Smite
Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions. The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use. Here are some synonyms for the verb “to smite”:
Afflict is a synonym for smite that means to riddle with plague or some other calamity
To attack is a synonym that means an action that is threatening or harmful in nature
To clobber is to strike or smite with vicious intent, usually with an instrument like a club or a weapon
At the end of the day, the thing that matters more than anything in communication is understanding your audience. Once you get to the point where you can read your audience, it becomes easier to use any word that you have to, even irregular ones. Good luck!
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.