TL;DR: What is the past tense of smite in the passive voice? Is there an alternative word or series of words with the intended nuance?

I am trying to find an alternative to the past passive tense for smite that doesn’t have the connotation of love. For example:

I was smitten by the hand of justice.

instead of

Jimmy has been smitten with Carla. Cupid must have come early.

It seems that, at least in American vernacular, the majority of use is defined by Dictionary.com's 7th definition.

An alternative word all together would be acceptable as well. I am looking for a word that doesn't connote love to an average speaker, while indicating the gravity of the institution performing the smiting.

The context in which this discussion sprang up was a discussions about a role playing tabletop game (Pathfinder). In it, one of the divine spells is Holy Smite. We were trying to figure out how to talk about being on the business end of that spell in the past tense.

Understandably, it appears to have fallen out of common usage in all aspects in the last century (Google's Ngram Viewer).

Forgive my possible breach in protocol. This is my first post on this exchange.

  • And thanks for whoever cleaned up my post, I appreciate it! I had posted this from my phone and was planning on cleaning it up when I got to a computer. Nov 15, 2014 at 15:05
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    The smithy smites the anvil with his hammer: smite is always a great blow. Historically, there are far more instances of smite used in this way than of a heart smitten — and even there, it remains a heavy blow that has stricken one to the quick.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:34
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    Your user name Gilbrilthor is Sindarin. I therefore commend you to the 70 instances of smite/smiting/smote/smitten in Lays, Silm., Hobbit, LotR. These should have the sense you seek given your purpose. I could find only one amongst the 70 that was connected to the heart, and even this is a blow: “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.” The other 69 are also blows, not cutesiness.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2014 at 16:32
  • @tchrist if I could like this comment more, I would. You, sir, are the first person in 13 years of using that name that has correctly determined its origin... I have found my people... Nov 15, 2014 at 17:58
  • @Gilbrilthor you may be interested in scifi.stackexchange.com
    – user72323
    Nov 15, 2014 at 20:13

4 Answers 4


Smitten is correct in your example and shouldn't necessarily imply any love to educated readers.

Her voice just vibrating...like a smitten vase. — 1859 G. Meredith R. Feverel xxx.

A violation of sanctities,...a burning of smitten faces. — 1888 H. James Reverberator II. v. 122.

If this does not convince you, you could use smit instead, which is perhaps archaic but still in use as a past participle.

The spell of art fell upon him and he was smit by a consuming desire to paint. He abandoned his studies in Aligarh and managed to get admission into the famous J.J. School of Arts, Bombay in 1943. — 1971 Perspective, Volume 4

During our cross-continental camping trips of the seventies, my parents took me to the fort, a limestone redoubt arrowing into Lake Ontario, where I was smit with its seemingly cybernetic drill squad. — 2001 Ward McBurney, Sky Train: Stories from CBC's Fresh Air

To be complete, I list here all the various spellings of the past participle that the Oxford English Dictionary has. If it says "5–", that means "from the 15th century onwards", etc. The ones in bold are the only forms the Oxford English Dictionary still considered "in use" (albeit often archaically).

(a) 4 y-, 5 i-smyten; 4–6 smyten (4–5 -yn, 5 -on, -un); 3–5 smiten (4 -in, -on).

(b) 3 hii-, 3–4 y-, 3–5 i-smite; 4 i-, 4–5 y-smyte; 4 (6 arch.) smite; 4–5 (6 arch.) smyte.

(c) 4–5 i-smeten; 4–5 smeten, -yn, 5 -on.

(d) 4 i-, 5 y-smete; 4–5 smete, 5 smet.

(e) 4, 6– smitten, 5–6 smytten (5 -yn, 6 -yne, smyttin).

(f) 5–6 smytte, 5 i-smyt, 5–6 smyt(t; 4, 6– smit.

(g) 6–7 smot, 6–9 smote; 7 smotten.

  • 2
    That it's probably not a good word to use.
    – tunny
    Nov 15, 2014 at 14:41
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    @tunny: Why not? Nov 15, 2014 at 14:48
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    @tunny: Why do you see little point? The OP is obviously not writing in a low register, not aiming at mediocrity. So what most native speakers would use in most genres (which will be mostly pop culture) matters little. Besides, the OP may very well be a native speaker. Nov 15, 2014 at 14:56
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    I am indeed a native speaker. My linguistic love and I were talking about the nuances of the word and couldn't figure out an answer with any confidence Nov 15, 2014 at 15:00
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    +1. As for people using the word, I'll point out that the band R.E.M. certainly used it, and in this millennium to boot.
    – Robusto
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:03

Smitten does indeed have connotations of love. So while "I was smitten by the hand of justice." is correct would be understood, it might get snickers.

I would use struck down instead.

  • 5
    I have hundreds of citations of smite/smote/smitten that have no connotation of amorous bliss, only of fell blows heavily struck.
    – tchrist
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:36
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    @tchrist There may be hundreds of citations, but not necessarily in modern vernacular English. The word in general has fallen out of use, and many people would not connect smitten (which they only hear used to describe infatuation) with smite (which they only hear used to describe intervention by God). Struck down is a good, plain-(modern)-English alternative, and is in keeping with the original post, which said "An alternative word all together would be acceptable as well."
    – AmeliaBR
    Nov 15, 2014 at 21:16
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    @tchris - Sure, and I can provide thousands of citations of "smitten" that do have a romantic connotation. I'm not debating the correctness of the usage, merely the likelihood of mental associations. AFAIK there is no way to quantify that; it is up to the individual reader. But the OP was worried about those connotations and I believe they are right to be.
    – Lynn
    Nov 15, 2014 at 22:06
  • Or just struck -- in case you recovered :-) Nov 16, 2014 at 7:52

"Smote" is the past tense of smite. "Smitten" is the past participle.

So yes, your use of I was smitten by the hand of justice is correct in the past tense, passive voice.

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    Similarly, if the agent is known, he could say instead e.g. "The Titan Cleric smote him with an holy blow."
    – Wlerin
    Nov 15, 2014 at 15:46

While the other answers are all good, one phrasing you might try if you still don't like [was] smitten is [was] subject to a smiting.

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