My friend recently told me she wanted to smite someone, so she said, “He should be smitten.” This, of course, sounds like she wanted him to be love-struck. Is this the only way to say it with the verb “to smite”, or is there another tense I’m missing?

There is another way to say it. My best friend plays a cleric on Everquest and every time she “smites” something (it’s a damage spell) it says, “so and so has been smitten!” like she charmed it or something and now it’s going to follow her around with big puppydog eyes. Bugs the crap out of me.

I would prefer “has been smote” to “has been smitten”, personally. Merriam Webster says “smote” is past tense, but I am sure a Doper with an OED and better knowledge of English will be along shortly to elucidate.

That’s just the way you conjugate the verb “smite.” Today I smite, yesterday I smote, tomorrow I may be smitten. They’re the same words. It’s just that the only surviving common usage is “smitten by love”. Rest assured, in older times being smitten was generally not a happy feeling.

This is not about conjugation. English has no conjugations, except for the third person singular of the simple present tense. To “be smitten” is the passive mood, which uses be and the past participle. It’s an irregular verb, and the participle can also be smote (same as past tense) or smit.

When someone is “smitten” (meaning in love, etc.) it’s simply an idiom; it’s an expression that isn’t to be taken literally. Just like to be bowled over normally doesn’t really mean one has been knocked down by a bowling ball. When your friend said “He should be smitten,” she was just using the verb smite with its normal, no idiomatic conotation.

I’m checking some references to make sure I’m not totally off base, but what is the narrow definition of “conjugation” that justifies the above statement, and who adheres to it? Is this one of those situations where something must be true in English because it’s true in, say, Latin?

I’m wondering the same thing. I mean, I can conjugate the French avoir in the first person present as j’ai, and in the imperfect as j’avais. Am I not “conjugating” the verb “to have” when I write “I have” or “I had”?

From a WW2 Air Force song:
Don’t give me no P-38
The propellors they counter-rotate
They lie broken and smitten
from Burma to Britain
Don’t give me no P-38.

I forget if it was Chaucer or Mallory, but there was much talk of knight’s desring to smite his enemy by applyinig a “buffet upon the helm”, i.e., a whack on the head.

Smitten must be an idiom, similar to the head-over-heels in love connotations of “you slay me”.

“Love-struck” means exactly that - struck, or smitten, by love: the metaphor’s just gotten a little ossified over time, so most people don’t consider the derivation.