I'm looking for a single word that would mean the opposite of smear. Specifically, I'm looking for it in the context of a verb being an action that an entity has at his disposal. So you might have a dirty snook who has "Smear 4", or the ability to lower someone's public relations rating by 4 points. If you were the victim of a "Smear 4" you would need to hire your own consultant with "Unsmear 4" to get your public relations back to where they were before the smear campaign was run against you. Clearly, "Unsmear" is not a viable term. I've reviewed a number of thesauruses, but nothing really jumps out at me. The closest I've found is either flatter or glorify, but neither convey what I'm looking for. I'm looking for something that evokes images of kissing babies, attending ice cream socials, and other typical PR boosting stuff.

  • 3
    Whitewash may fill the bill. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:04
  • @Downvoter If you have ideas as to how this post could be improved, I'm all ears (eyes?).
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:24
  • 1
    Puff-piece is an article written to make someone look better.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:27
  • "kissing babies, attending ice cream socials, and other typical PR boosting stuff." Sounds like presidential campaigning to me.
    – Cameron
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:37
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    @ΜετάEd I disagree that the question is not constructive. I researched single word requests on meta before and after posting this question. My primary criteria were [here]meta.english.stackexchange.com/a/1659 and I believe I hit no 'bad' criteria, and all of the 'good' criteria.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 19:58

8 Answers 8


The term hype is often used to play up or enhance a reputation. According to Cambridge

to make something seem more exciting or important than it is

Three additional definitions from American Heritage say

Excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion: the hype surrounding the murder trial.

Exaggerated or extravagant claims made especially in advertising or promotional material: "It is pure hype, a gigantic PR job" (Saturday Review).

An advertising or promotional ploy: "Some restaurant owners in town are cooking up a $75,000 hype to promote New York as 'Restaurant City, U.S.A.'" (New York).

This is not unsmear but a concept of promoting.

Another aspect of countering a smear would be a rebuttal. Again Cambridge

a statement which says that something is not true; She issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the company's accusations.

  • I do really like hype, in that it also works in the context of never having been a victim.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:12
  • I like "hype." The word I would most naturally use for what is described here is probably "promote" - to promote a candidate - but taken out of context it might be problematically confused with the "ascend to higher rank" meaning. Another option, which I thought of because OP unwittingly used it in their post, is boost.
    – alcas
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:14
  • @alcas Boost is a good option. Unfortunately, in the context of the game (these are abilities of entities in a game) boost would be ambiguous, as there are a number of other statistics that could be boosted.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 17:23

Most positive I can think of is polish. Smear implies covering with dirt, whitewash implies covering it up. But if there is no dirt in the first place, and there are genuine merits to be highlighted, it is time to polish them up. 'Their smear campaign has hurt us. It is time to polish up our reputation.'


To "spin" is political jargon for attempting to frame news or events in a manner favorable to yourself or your group. As in, "Stories are coming out about our candidate having numerous extra-marital affairs. We've got to spin this as 'popular with women voters'?"

But this is broader than just "undo the negative impact of a smear". It's also routinely used to refer to making an ambiguous fact look good for your side, or turning something potentially positive about an opponent into a negative.

  • I do like "spin", particularly because of how broad it is. It's very similar to "hype" as mentioned above, although not as broad. That is to say, hype can exist without a driving element - things can be (and most often are) invented to be hyped, while spin requires a driver to be spun.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 18:17

Lionize is a wonderful word.

Oxford Dictionary of British English:

give a lot of public attention and approval to (someone); treat as a celebrity: modern sportsmen are lionized and feted.

Some uses of it together with politicians on Google:

Will Dem re-enacters recreate the Chappaquidick incident as they lionize Teddy?

Requiem for a Reprobate: Ethiopian Tyrant Should Not Be Lionized

Some other possibilities are panegyrize, commend, laud.

  • I had considered commend, but it seemed too real. That is, you need something to be commended for, and the PR campaigns that would be run are based much more on nothing than they are on something (if that made any sense!) As far as lionize, I actually agree with your description of 'wonderful' - but would my users also 'wonder' what it means?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 20:03
  • I had the idea laud always went with magnify, but per ngrams for laud,laud and magnify not so much. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 21:12

The opposite of a smear in P.R. is what is known as a puff piece or puffery:

Puff piece or fluff piece is an idiom for ... an article or story of exaggerating praise that often ignores or downplays opposing viewpoints or evidence to the contrary.

  • Puffery would fit the particular theme of the game being developed, although I'm not sure it would be intuitive. The term would be "Puff 4" (which sounds more like smoking illegal substances) or "Puffery 4" (which to be honest sounds like a delicious bakery item). Both of those in their intuitive conext fits the theme of the game (an underhanded businessman doing anything to get ahead) and certainly has uses, but I'm not sure fits this particular application of it.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 18:15

Have you considered exalt? From OED:

a. To raise in rank, honour, estimation, power, or wealth.

d. To praise, extol, magnify.

e. To raise to a higher class, a higher degree of value or excellence; to dignify, ennoble

f. To stimulate (powers) to higher activity.

  • It crossed my mind, but there are two cons against it. One is the MTG mechanic exalted, and the second is the inherent religious connotation associated with the world exalt. Despite the image that underworld figures have of being highly religious, it doesn't seem appropriate given the context - a context that you personally are more familiar with than any other poster ;-O Ohhh no I've said too much.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 20:00
  • ... and it's rarely used in a political context. In practice, we just don't say "We must exalt Senator Jones".
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 13:47

The first answer that sprang to my mind, when thinking about the "opposite" of smears – at least, in the realm of politics – are endorsements.

Former presidents and sitting politicians often endorse the campaign of another politician (presidents and former presidents endorse those running for the Senate; senators endorse those running for mayor, and so on.) Moreover, mainstream news outlets (newspapers, magazines) will often endorse a candidate on the eve of an election, giving glowing, impassioned arguments on their opinion pages.

But you ended your question by mentioning:

I'm looking for something that evokes images of kissing babies, attending ice cream socials, and other typical PR boosting stuff.

Those are often referred to as photo ops (ops being short for opportunities).

  • This is very insightful, and I do like both terms. I get the feeling, though, that they are instances of what I seek. That they are too specific for the particular application in question.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 18:19
  • @corsiKa: Good call. Photo op as "an instance" is an astute observation; I think you're right. What I like about smear vs endorse, though, is that they can both be used as nouns or verbs, and still work as antonyms.
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 19:10
  • Endorse would work, but it would require the endorser to be someone important. If a nobody were to come forward with a story about how you saved their cat, it wouldn't be much of an endorsement... who wants to be endorsed by the guy who let his cat require saving in the first place?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 19:48

The word you want is "stroke". The Free Dictionary gives it as a verb (section 2, definition 2) but it is also used as a noun.

  • 1
    Being a verb is preferable to being a noun, as it's an action an entity performs. This does seem to fit the bill, but I see two problems with it: 1) it's fairly obscure, so it's meaning would be learned by users as opposed to intuitively apparent, and 2) teenage users would never live it down...
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 18:31

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