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 acerbically (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 Like Austen, Russo distinguishes carefully between his protagonist, decent and soulful beneath an acerbic exterior, and the supporting cast, which includes a campus cop with a God complex and several unattractive, unpleasant women. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Two Paths for the Comic Novel (and the Funniest Books to Read in Quarantine)," 27 Apr. 2020 Larry David’s comedy is, by contrast, endlessly acerbic, edgy, contentious. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Lennon and McCartney of Comedy," 20 Mar. 2020 Starring opposite James Gandolfini in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfus showed that her signature acerbic humor and killer timing could very effectively be redirected to access her character's inner life in a dramatic role. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Downhill': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 But the 2020 Golden Globes did have acerbic emcee Ricky Gervais taking the stage for the fifth time, while Alicia Keys will return to host the 2020 Grammys. Lesley Goldberg, Billboard, "Oscars to Go Hostless Again for 2020 Ceremony," 8 Jan. 2020 The show is a loony, acerbic satire of corporate feminism, framed as an inspirational keynote from a character named Shell Gasoline-Sandwich, the billionaire G.E.O. of the surveillance-tech company Pee Pee Smarthomes. Cat Zhang, The New Yorker, "Jamie Loftus, the Comedian Who Infiltrated Mensa," 9 Mar. 2020 The press conference prop spoke volumes about the acerbic Republican governor’s strategy of turning hot-button national issues into bluegrass state reelection themes. Washington Post, "Kentucky governor highlights national issues in campaign," 18 Oct. 2019 The press conference prop spoke volumes about the acerbic Republican governor’s strategy of turning hot-button national issues into bluegrass state reelection themes. Bruce Schreiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Kentucky governor highlights national issues in campaign," 18 Oct. 2019 Never Over by Beth B is the first career-spanning documentary retrospective of Lydia Lunch’s confrontational, acerbic and always electric music and art. Joey Nolfi,, "King of Staten Island," 15 Jan. 2020

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

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Acerbic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on acerbic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for acerbic

Spanish Central: Translation of acerbic

Nglish: Translation of acerbic for Spanish Speakers

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