as·​per·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈsper-ə-tē How to pronounce asperity (audio) , a-, -ˈspe-rə- \
plural asperities

Definition of asperity

1 : roughness of manner or of temper : harshness of behavior or speech that expresses bitterness or anger He asked with some asperity just what they were implying.
2 : rigor, severity … whether hearing herself described as a 'lovely woman' softened the asperity of her grief …— Charles Dickens
3a : roughness of surface : unevenness also : a tiny projection from a surface the asperities of the tongue
b : roughness of sound

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Did You Know?

Asperity has had a rough history. It came to Modern English through Middle English (where it was spelled "asprete") by way of the Anglo-French ("asprete"), and ultimately derives from the Latin word asper, which means "rough." Not only is "asper" the source of "asperity," but it also underlies the English word exasperate (in fact, you can see "asper" nestled in the midst of that word). Although it is far less common than "asperity" and "exasperate," the word asper itself is still occasionally used in English, too - it functions as a synonym of "harsh," "bitter," or "stern."

First Known Use of asperity

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for asperity

Middle English asprete, from Anglo-French aspreté, from aspre rough, from Latin asper, from Old Latin *absperos, from ab- ab- + -speros; akin to Sanskrit apasphura repelling, Latin spernere to spurn — more at spurn entry 1

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Time Traveler for asperity

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The first known use of asperity was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Asperity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on asperity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for asperity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with asperity

Spanish Central: Translation of asperity

Nglish: Translation of asperity for Spanish Speakers

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