Can anyone think of a synonym for "shit eating grin" that would be usable in polite company?

This definition from the OED captures the meaning I'm looking for perfectly:

A broad grin expressing uncontrollable delight or (self-)satisfaction, esp. characterized by awareness of having got away with something normally considered outrageous or improper.

As pointed out in this Metafiler comment, an important nuance is that this sort of grin is uncontrollable.

  • 2
    poo eating grin?
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 13:53

6 Answers 6


One synonym for "shit-eating" is smug:

looking or feeling too pleased about something you have done or achieved

So you can say that someone has a "smug grin" or a "smug look on their face". It still has the negative connotation of "shit-eating grin", but is suitable for polite company.

A related idiom is that one can look like the cat that got the cream:

if someone looks like the cat that got the cream, they annoy other people by looking very pleased with themselves because of something good that they have done

  • 10
    Or "the cat that ate the canary" if you're American.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 11:46

It's a little obscure but…

...grin like a Cheshire cat.

fits the bill.

  • 2
    Oh, but Cheshire cat's grin is so much more! :D
    – Unreason
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 12:40
  • This is a fantastic answer! I keep going back and forth on whether to accept simchona's answer or yours. :)
    – daxelrod
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 0:38
  • 1
    I like smug as well but felt that it has a negative connotation that doesn't necessarily apply. I've seen a s**t eating grin on my 4 year son when he's ridiculously happy. I think the saying has more to do with the expression on one's face as a literal interpretation of what your mouth would look like while trying to eat feces in a controlled fashion and feign enjoyment. It's akin to "say cheese", having a gun pointed at your privates, or just being given a piece of chocolate after you've cleaned up your Lego.
    – rjmoggach
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 23:45

You could use the word:

verb (used without object)
1. to smile in an affected, smug, or offensively familiar way.


It's a bit more wordy, but I suggest:

You look like the cat that ate the canary.


A big, cheesy grin

Cheesy, as in "Say cheese!" but also as in,

adj., cheap, unpleasant, or blatantly inauthentic.


The first thing I though of and as alluded to in your definition:

a self-satisfied grin...

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