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acerbic

play
adjective acer·bic \ə-ˈsər-bik, a-\

Simple Definition of acerbic

  • : expressing harsh or sharp criticism in a clever way

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of acerbic

  1. :  acid in temper, mood, or tone <acerbic commentary> <an acerbic reviewer>

acerbically play \-bi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of acerbic in a sentence

  1. Whitney has graced magazine covers for her acerbic and blunt evisceration of the banks she has covered. Several weeks ago, she left her well-paid post at Oppenheimer to start her own economic consultancy, where she will charge many of her employer's clients for her own unambiguous analysis. —Zachary Karabell, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009

  2. … we probably have no choice but to enjoy Private Lives on its own terms—as a play that exults in its total lack of a public dimension. Coward's acerbic wit, his submerged sensibility, and his clipped semantics actually had a profound influence on the styles of virtually all the English dramatists who followed him … —Robert Brustein, New Republic, 10 June 2002

  3. … discovery of self-esteem and New Agey conclusions (“I discovered there was a goddess deep inside me”) are something that an acerbic comedian like Cho shouldn't embrace without irony. —Publishers Weekly, 7 May 2001

  4. We want to experience how someone as acerbic as Jane Austen, as morally passionate as Dostoyevsky, as psychologically astute as Henry James makes sense of the chaos of this world. —Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review, 15 Mar. 1998

  5. the film's most acerbic critics

  6. <whispered a steady stream of acerbic comments as the lecturer droned on>



Did You Know?

English speakers created "acerbic" in the 19th century by adding "-ic" to the adjective "acerb." "Acerb" had been around since the 17th century, but for most of that time it had been used with only a literal "sour-tasting" sense. (The word acerb is still around today, but it is now simply a less common synonym of "acerbic.") "Acerbic" and "acerb" ultimately come from the Latin adjective acerbus, which can mean "harsh," "bitter," or "unpleasant." Another English word that comes from "acerbus" is "exacerbate," which means "to make more violent, bitter, or severe."

Origin of acerbic

(see acerb)


First Known Use: 1865



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