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

Did you know?

The etymology of asperity is "rough." It is adapted from Middle English asprete, which was borrowed from the Anglo-French aspreté, 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—it functions as a synonym of harsh, bitter, and stern.

Examples of asperity in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web By the time Keane wrote Devoted Ladies, a note of asperity had crept into her fiction. Francine Prose, The New York Review of Books, 22 Nov. 2018 Imagine Don Draper’s grasp of American psychopathology delivered with the pithy asperity of Emily Dickinson. Megan O’grady, New York Times, 19 Oct. 2020

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

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

Learn More About asperity

Time Traveler for asperity

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About asperity

Dictionary Entries Near asperity




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for asperity

Cite this Entry

“Asperity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on asperity

Nglish: Translation of asperity for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Great Words for Scrabble

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!