callous

adjective
cal·​lous | \ˈka-ləs \

Definition of callous 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : being hardened and thickened

b : having calluses callous hands

2a : feeling no emotion

b : feeling or showing no sympathy for others : hard-hearted a callous indifference to suffering

callous

verb
cal·​lous | \ˈka-ləs \
calloused; callousing; callouses

Definition of callous (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make callous hands calloused by hard manual labor

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Other Words from callous

Adjective

callously adverb
callousness noun

Did You Know?

Adjective

A callus is a hard, thickened area of skin that develops usually from friction or irritation over time. Such a hardened area often leaves one less sensitive to the touch, so it's no surprise that the adjective callous, in addition to describing skin that is hard and thick, can also be used as a synonym for "harsh" or "insensitive." Both callus and callous derive via Middle English from Latin. The figurative sense of callous entered English almost 300 years after the literal sense, and Robert Louis Stevenson used it aptly when he wrote, in Treasure Island, "But, indeed, from what I saw, all these buccaneers were as callous as the sea they sailed on."

Examples of callous in a Sentence

Adjective

… under Orton's own companionable charm there was something hard and callous, the result no doubt of a loveless upbringing … — Benedict Nightingale, New York Times Book Review, 10 May 1987 … the scenes involving the snotty, callous dean ring false right from the start … — Pauline Kael, New Yorker, 8 Apr. 1985 Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. — Dylan Thomas, "A Child's Christmas in Wales," in Quite Early One Morning1954 a selfish and callous young man a callous refusal to help the poor
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The writing manages to touch on strong political themes without ever feeling callous or awkward. Julie Muncy, Ars Technica, "Life Is Strange 2, episode 1 review: New setting, same heart," 28 Sep. 2018 Another school shooting, another callous display of hypocrisy by politicians. refinery29.com, "After Santa Fe, These Texas Politicians' Hypocrisy Is Glaringly Obvious," 18 May 2018 The callous unilateral policy toward people such as Diana and Luis is not only reprehensible but also antithetical to our nation’s values. Allison Bond, STAT, "We can’t ignore the scars of those seeking asylum for domestic abuse and gang violence," 29 June 2018 Sheldon Plankton of the Chum Bucket restaurant—the picture of callous capitalism—devises a scheme to sell more chum burgers by hypnotizing everybody. Sam Walker, WSJ, "Now on Broadway: SpongeBob ChauvinistPants," 11 July 2018 And, of course, nothing about the history of trade relations between America and Europe justifies the president’s callous indifference to the latter’s interests in Iran, or humanity’s interest in the preservation of the Paris climate accords. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump America Isn’t Going to the G7 to Make Friends (or Keep Them)," 7 June 2018 That photo incited revulsion, depicting a callous disregard for human life. Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, "Did the news media, led by Walter Cronkite, lose the war in Vietnam?," 25 May 2018 For obvious reasons, her sartorial choice drew criticism on social media and in the press, where it was lambasted as callous and insensitive. Lisa Ryan, The Cut, "Donald Trump Says Melania’s Jacket Was a Dig at the Media," 21 June 2018 Nielsen’s contentious 20-minute appearance in the briefing room came as several prominent Republicans, including former first lady Laura Bush, have publicly joined Democrats in denouncing the family separations as callous and cruel. David Nakamura And Nick Miroff, BostonGlobe.com, "Nielsen becomes public face of Trump’s migrant family separation policy," 19 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Years as a welder have left his hands calloused, nearly immune to burns. Hilary Cadigan, Bon Appetit, "The Unmistakable Bryan Furman, Georgia’s New King of Barbecue," 25 June 2018 Hard, calloused fingers move up and down the neck, connecting chords and filling the park with music. David Montero, latimes.com, "In a small park named for the national anthem's author, a homeless musician provides the soundtrack," 14 June 2018 The significance wasn't just that Devers wowed even calloused baseball observers by solving Chapman in such short order, or that a Large Child shall lead them. Tom Verducci, SI.com, "Why Star Red Sox Rookies Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi Value Contact Over Power," 14 Sep. 2017 Price's emotional hide is not calloused as, oh, Curt Schilling. Jeff Jacobs, courant.com, "Jeff Jacobs: David Price Must Find Peace In Boston," 9 June 2017 Meanwhile, the Bruins (16-8, 7-7) are coming off an 80-71 victory over Denver South in the second round and have been calloused by a difficult Centennial League schedule. Kyle Newman, The Denver Post, "Post Preps Radio: Chatfield hosts Cherry Creek in Class 5A Sweet 16 boys hoops battle," 27 Feb. 2017

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

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First Known Use of callous

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1769, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for callous

Adjective

Middle English, from Latin callosus, from callum, callus callous skin

Verb

see callous entry 1

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Statistics for callous

Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for callous

The first known use of callous was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for callous

callous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of callous

: not feeling or showing any concern about the problems or suffering of other people

callous

adjective
cal·​lous | \ˈka-ləs \

Kids Definition of callous

: feeling or showing no sympathy for others a callous refusal to help

callous

adjective
cal·​lous | \ˈkal-əs \

Medical Definition of callous 

1 : being hardened and thickened

2 : having calluses

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