"oily fat of land animals," c. 1300, from Anglo-French grece, Old French gresse, craisse "grease, fat" (Modern French graisse), from Vulgar Latin *crassia "(melted) animal fat, grease," from Latin crassus "thick, solid, fat" (source also of Spanish grasa, Italian grassa), which is of unknown origin. Grease paint, used by actors, attested from 1880. Grease monkey "mechanic" is from 1918.
1818, French, short for pâté de foie gras (1827 in English), literally "pie of fat liver;" originally served in a pastry (as still in Alsace), the phrase now chiefly in English with reference to the filling. French foie "liver" is cognate with Italian fegato, from Latin *ficatum. For pâté see pâté (n.2); for gras see grease (n.).
early 14c. (as a surname), "one who smears salve on a sheep," agent noun from grease (v.). As a contemptuous American English slang for "native Mexican or Latin American," first attested 1848, a term from the Mexican-American War; supposedly so called from unclean appearance, but contemporary sources sometimes explain it otherwise: an 1848 account of the war defines it as "friendly Mexican," and adds:
It may here be necessary to explain, as the terms are frequently made use of, that mocho is a low Spanish word for a foot-soldier, and the term greaser we suppose is a corruption of word grazier, the class of péons or labourers of the country. [Samuel C. Ried Jr., "The Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers," Philadelphia, 1848]
Greaseball in same sense is from 1934 (earlier it was World War I slang for "an army cook," and from 1922 for "mechanic").
kind of nutritious and durable foodstuff made by Native Americans, 1791, from Cree (Algonquian) /pimihka:n/ from /pimihke:w/ "he makes grease," from pimiy "grease, fat." Lean meat, dried, pounded and mixed with congealed fat and ground berries and formed into cakes eaten on long journeys. Also used figuratively for "extremely condensed thought or matter."
Old English smerian, smierwan "to anoint or rub with grease, oil, etc.," from Proto-Germanic *smerwjan "to spread grease on" (source also of Old Norse smyrja "to anoint, rub with ointment," Danish smøre, Swedish smörja, Dutch smeren, Old High German smirwen "apply salve, smear," German schmieren "to smear;" Old Norse smör "butter"), from PIE *smeru- "grease" (source also of Greek myron "unguent, balsam," Old Irish smi(u)r "marrow," Old English smeoru "fat, grease, ointment, tallow, lard, suet," Lithuanian smarsas "fat").
Figurative sense of "assault a public reputation" is by 1835; especially "dishonor or besmirch with unsubstantiated charges." Related: Smeared; smearing. Smear-word, one used regardless of its literal meaning but invested with invective, is from 1938.