asperity

noun as·per·i·ty \ a-ˈsper-ə-tē , ə- , -ˈspe-rə- \

Definition of asperity

plural asperities
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
3 a : roughness of surface : unevenness; also : a tiny projection from a surface
  • the asperities of the tongue
b : roughness of sound

asperity was our Word of the Day on 06/17/2010. Hear the podcast!

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."

Origin and Etymology of 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



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up asperity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to provide what is needed to exist

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman-tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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