asperity

noun

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

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 Advertisement On a re-read, Orwell’s narrative holds up, in large part due to the asperity of the prose and the prescient description of how fascism can creep into any society that takes freedom for granted. Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 Her asperity has brought upon her the full flaming rage of the Twittersphere. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, 2 Oct. 2022 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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'asperity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

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Cite this Entry

“Asperity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/asperity. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

asperity

noun
as·​per·​i·​ty a-ˈsper-ət-ē How to pronounce asperity (audio)
ə-ˈsper-
plural asperities
1
: something making for hardship : rigor, severity
2
: harshness of temper, manner, or tone

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