I sometimes see phrases like "smart hotel", "smart restaurant" (especially in guide books). From context I usually understand it as "expensive but worthy". Is it correct understanding? Why is word "smart" used? I rarely see it used in that way outside of this context. I never heard "smart car" in that sense for example.

Edit: Example of usage (that actually encouraged me to ask this question), this is quote from guide book about Morocco: "However, it is a waste of time trying to negotiate at peak of the high season, or in the very smart hotels, such as the La Mamounia in Marrakech". So it is even used in comparative form. Apparently this La Mamounia Hotel is one of the most luxurious and expensive hotels in Marrakech.


4 Answers 4


The emphasis is not so much on its cost as on its desirability. The definition given in Oxford Dictionaries Online is ‘(of a place) fashionable and upmarket’.

  • And a smart car is certainly an established phrase.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:26
  • As a brand, you mean? Sep 18, 2013 at 12:31
  • Hmmm. The brand name certainly skews any attempt to search for the phrase. But ngrams to the rescue: A graph of "smart car" and "smart cars" shows peaks in the early 30's and the late 40's, then a decline until 1980 when it picked up rapidly.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:42
  • I suppose there's no reason why any object deemed to be of sufficient sophistication cannot be described as 'smart'. Sep 18, 2013 at 15:26
  • There is a certain tendency to see a condensed material into necessary parts being 'smart', regardless of whether or not the product is actually better for the reduction.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 18, 2013 at 15:53

Smart is used as praise here, with secondary meanings. A smart hotel would be trendy, fashionable, clever in some way, or artistic, possibly also in good location in an area that also shares these traits. It's a very liberal, artistic use of the word smart. It imparts a kind of excitement about the subject, and youth, and approval. It does not necessarily mean "expensive", though a "smart _" would be desirable and thus demand for it would tend to increase, and thus its price. It would be odd to find "smart" used in this way outside of some kind review, such as your guidebook. It is a rather rare, literary, poetic way of describing the subject.

"smart car" uses "smart" to refer to advanced/good electronics/other technology & software inside a machine or other object, a completely different use of the word.

  • This seems to complicate the issue more than is necessary. It's a synonym for "posh" or "upscale" or whatever you want to call it.
    – Casey
    May 2, 2017 at 14:47

There is a certain cultural weight to the term "smart" being used here to market certain products.

Traditional thinking on what creates value in a product emphasizes on "more is better". Big cars, big houses, big dinners, all emphasize quality in quantity.

This is not always the case, and "smart" in the marketning world emphasizes that.

A "Smart Car" is by comparison a rather small car, yet there is value in its energy efficiency and utility for getting around in an urban environment.

Simiarly, though a "smart hotel" and a "smart resturaunt" may not offer larger rooms or larger portions on meals, they emphasize a condensed nature that, you are meant to assume, offers some better quality that requires a bit of understanding to realize.

Whether or not that quality is actually desireable is up to the consumer, but the impliation that the marketer wants to get across is that you are smart for buying their product, and realizing the hidden quality that it offers.


People can make up the smart terminology all they want. I certainly don't agree with Barrie on this one even though he is really smart.

But smart is a marketing/advertising gimmick. It is used to portray that a company's product is more sophisticated or smart-er than the non-smart. So smart cars that get 40 mpg in the US are smart, but cars using diesel engines in the EU getting 50 mpg are what then? So yea smart is smart. Because it is smart of the ad execs to use the word smart to get you to pay more money for their products because maybe you will feel smart when you buy it. Are you smart buying these things is the question - not to sound like a smart-ass.

  • Please see my update. It was used not in marketing context.
    – Andrey
    Sep 18, 2013 at 17:39

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