acer·​bic | \ ə-ˈsər-bik How to pronounce acerbic (audio) , a- \

Definition of acerbic

: sharply or bitingly critical, sarcastic, or ironic in temper, mood, or tone acerbic commentary an acerbic reviewer

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Other Words from acerbic

acerbically \ ə-​ˈsər-​bi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce acerbic (audio) \ adverb

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."

Examples of acerbic in a Sentence

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 … 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 … 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 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 the film's most acerbic critics whispered a steady stream of acerbic comments as the lecturer droned on
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Recent Examples on the Web With acerbic wit, the author also makes a larger point. Charlotte Gray, WSJ, "‘Sensational’ Review: Heyday of the Stunt Reporter," 23 Apr. 2021 Writer-director Sødahl expertly balances the sentimental and the acerbic, the grave and the altar., "Love, mortality, and ‘Hope’," 21 Apr. 2021 Of course, there are some retailers whose only goal is to add sales volume, and a mission with that directive can only serve to dull politically acerbic public opinion. Rick Helfenbein, Forbes, "When China Rings The Bell In Xinjiang - Retail Crumbles," 12 Apr. 2021 Smart is unrivaled as the acerbic master of the casually cruel put-down, and Helen gives her ample opportunity to show it. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "How Kate Winslet elevates suffering to an art in HBO's absorbing series 'Mare of Easttown'," 15 Apr. 2021 The pandemic further laid bare our existing challenges and fractures with acerbic clarity. Angela Ahrendts, Fortune, "How the best leaders help companies build deeper connection in a work-from-home world," 2 Apr. 2021 Cloris Leachman got a SAG Award nomination for her role as a blunt, acerbic grandma in James L. Brooks’s largely unsuccessful Spanglish, but the former Best Supporting Actress winner (The Last Picture Show) was denied an Oscar nod. Joe Reid, Vulture, "This Could Be a Groundbreaking Year for Grandmas at the Oscars," 1 Apr. 2021 The most pointed edge of their satisfyingly acerbic opener, however, was saved for Globes’ organizing body the Hollywood Foreign Press for having zero Black members. Halle Kiefer, Vulture, "Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Open Golden Globes by Zinging HFPA’s Lack of Black Members," 28 Feb. 2021 Ferrera's acerbic exhaustion in Superstore's early seasons didn't suggest raw material for nostalgia. Darren Franich,, "The lovely Superstore series finale found the silver lining in a dark Cloud 9: Review," 26 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acerbic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of acerbic

1865, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for acerbic

acerb + -ic entry 1

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Time Traveler for acerbic

Time Traveler

The first known use of acerbic was in 1865

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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Acerbic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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