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1. Literally, to fill a space with smoke to force a person or animal out of hiding. A noun or pronoun can be used between "smoke" and "out." The terrorists are in the center of the building, and will surely kill any officers who try to enter. I think our best bet is to try to smoke them out. Back on the farm, we used to smoke out rats by running a hose from the exhaust pipe of our pickup truck into their nest.
2. To expose someone or something and bring it to the attention of the public. A noun or pronoun can be used between "smoke" and "out." We were able to smoke the crooked cop out by hiding a microphone in the back alley where he took bribes from criminals. The newspaper smoked out the government's illegal use of torture to extract information from prisoners during the war.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Expose, reveal, bring to public view, as in Reporters thrive on smoking out a scandal. This expression alludes to driving a person or animal out of a hiding place by filling it with smoke. [Late 1500s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To force someone or something out of a place by or as if by the use of smoke: The groundskeeper smoked out the gopher. The police smoked the fugitives out of their hideout.
2. To detect and bring someone or something to public view; expose or reveal someone or something: The media was quick to smoke out the scandal. The ruse was successful in smoking the culprit out.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
smoke someone/something out, to
To drive someone/something into the open. The term alludes to the practice of driving a person or animal out of hiding by starting a fire, so that the smoke will force them out. The term has been used figuratively since the early twentieth century. “Speculators were ‘smoked out’ by a Congressional inquiry” appeared in the New York Times (1948).
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer