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I have used "irascible smile" when talking of a friend who is almost always smiling. I was asked to define the word by someone unfamiliar to its use, and reached for the dictionary (electronically) to explain it, where I found the latin-derived definition of 'quick to anger' in various paraphrasings.

I know the words from reading it as I have mentioned, and from phrases such as 'irascible old man', 'irascible youth' so I understood it to be more along the lines of 'easily provoked' where the context makes it clear in what way (joy, anger, etc).

Am I alone in this misunderstanding? Is this a valid use of the word? If not, can you suggest words that fit better for my intended meaning? (I have thought of irrepressible as a good alternative).

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    I think you should have checked a dictionary before imposing your own (endearingly creative, but totally non-standard) meaning on irascible. Your irrepressible is fine, but doesn't necessarily have the same nuance as "easily triggered" ("provoked", like "irascible" implies antagonism - which "triggered" doesn't, even if it's not the best possible word). – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '15 at 0:11
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    ...I thought I'd be "creative", and suggest hair-trigger smile, but according to Google Books, 47 published writers have already thought of that one, – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '15 at 0:20
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    @FumbleFingers Your comments read as intensely patronising, if this isn't deliberate you might want to modify your style to be less easily misunderstood. Moving on, this isn't a case of my inventing a context of a word I misunderstood the definition of, this is a case of my reading "irascible smile" in a novel years ago (used incorrectly) and it colouring my understanding of the meaning of the world, resulting in an incorrect re-usage of the word in the same context. To check a dictionary for every word prior to its use is a farcical waste of time. – Sam Mar 14 '15 at 13:04
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    @FumbleFingers no apology needed, I'm just cynical and jaded. Be wary of alternate and more negative interpretation is all I really wanted to say. – Sam Mar 14 '15 at 14:47
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    @medica's ready definitely captures the essence of what I was getting at with "hair-trigger" (easily invoked [by situations, or other people], an implication shared with irascible). But I doubt you'll find a single-word term that also carries the not easily suppressed [by the person smiling] implication. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '15 at 16:31
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Any synonym with the meaning you want will do.

abiding, lasting, enduring, permanent, constant, continual, continuous, persistent, never-ending, perpetual, sustained, uninterrupted, 24-hour, round-the-clock (etc)

Someone who smiles easily and often might be said to have a ready smile:

in a state of completion or preparedness, as for use or action; willing or eager; prompt or rapid.

It is exceedingly common to learn the meaning of words from their use in context, so you are far from alone. The problem is that for many words (like "irascible") the context is rarely detailed enough to really tell you anything about its meaning, so a lot of people misinterpret such words for years before finally looking it up. It's always a good idea to look up a new word for its denotation and its connotation. Add root words to that, and language appreciation really blossoms.

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  • The exact meaning I was looking for was along the lines of 'easily inspired and not readily repressed' because the character in question smiles easily and is notable for how hard it is to knock the damn thing off their face! Summing that up in one word is somewhat of a challenge. Looking up new words is something I do a lot more now than when I was just devouring fiction as a child, whence this misunderstanding springs. – Sam Mar 14 '15 at 13:07
  • @Sam - I think "ready" describes this kind of smile. I was not lecturing you, btw; I was empathizing with you. ') – anongoodnurse Mar 14 '15 at 13:10
  • Don't worry about it, I didn't read it like that. I was adding a clarification to further pick your brain. The rest is more an agreement with your 'misinterpret such words for years'. – Sam Mar 14 '15 at 14:43
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If you're not comfortable with irrepressible, you might try uncontrollable. They mean pretty much the same thing.

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