Mr Furlong asked me a question. We were listening to how Messenger has now crashed into Mercury, smashing itself to “smithereens”, said the news. Mr Furlong asked “what is a smithereen?”. In this scientific age, this is an important question don’t you think?
A smithereen is a tiny fragment.
A smithereen is simply a very tiny piece or fragment of something, and derives from an Irish word for the same. The Oxford English Dictionary and other sources agree that smithereen entered English sometime in the early 1800s from the Irish Gaelic smidirín (“small fragment”), which itself is just the Gaelic smiodar (“fragment”) with a diminutive suffix attached.