Wise guy and wiseguy

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Wise guy or wiseguy is an idiom that originated in the United States. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom wise guy or wiseguy where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Wise guy most often means a smart aleck; someone who makes sarcastic jokes and believes he is witty but others believe he is annoying. The term is also often rendered as wiseguy, with no hyphen. The expression wise guy may also mean a mobster or member of the Mafia. The term wise guy to mean a smart aleck came into use in the later 1800s in North America. The expression wise guy to mean a member of the Mafia came into use in the 1970s.


Biden told the reporters he had been a “wise guy” in his answer, and expressed regret for having been “short.” (Boston Herald)

“Don’t be a wise guy about it,” Walsh snapped. (Boston Magazine)

It was a shore dinner in Maine a decade ago that transformed Robert Gentile, an aging, unremarkable wise guy from Hartford, into the best lead in years in one of the world’s most baffling crime mysteries, the unsolved robbery of half a billion dollars in art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Hartford Courant)