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."

Examples of asperity in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Imagine Don Draper’s grasp of American psychopathology delivered with the pithy asperity of Emily Dickinson. Megan O’grady, New York Times, "Barbara Kruger," 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

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Time Traveler for asperity

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Asperity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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