Sardonic Smile, Grin, or Laughter

A smile of contempt: so used by Homer.

“The Sardonic or Sardinian laugh. A laugh caused, it was supposed, by a plant growing in Sardinia, of which they who ate died laughing.” —Trench: Words, lecture iv. p. 176.

The Herba Sardonia (so called from Sardis, in Asia Minor) is so acrid that it produces a convulsive movement of the nerves of the face, resembling a painful grin. Byron says of the Corsair, There was a laughing devil in his sneer.

`Tis envy's safest, surest rule
To hide her rage in ridicule;
The vulgar eye the best begniles
When all her snakes are decked with smiles,
Sardonic smilesby rancour raised.

Swift: Pheasant and Lork.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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