caustic

adjective
caus·​tic | \ ˈkȯ-stik How to pronounce caustic (audio) \

Definition of caustic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action : corrosive The chemical was so caustic that it ate through the pipe.
2 : marked by incisive sarcasm a caustic film review caustic humor
3 : relating to or being the surface or curve of a caustic (see caustic entry 2 sense 2)

caustic

noun

Definition of caustic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a caustic agent: such as
a : a substance that burns or destroys organic tissue by chemical action
b : a strong corrosive alkali (such as sodium hydroxide)
2 : the envelope of rays emanating from a point and reflected or refracted by a curved surface

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Other Words from caustic

Adjective

caustically \ ˈkȯ-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce caustic (audio) \ adverb
causticity \ kȯ-​ˈsti-​sə-​tē How to pronounce caustic (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for caustic

Adjective

caustic, mordant, acrid, scathing mean stingingly incisive. caustic suggests a biting wit. caustic comments mordant suggests a wit that is used with deadly effectiveness. mordant reviews of the play acrid implies bitterness and often malevolence. acrid invective scathing implies indignant attacks delivered with fierce severity. a scathing satire

Did You Know?

Adjective

If you have a burning desire to know the origins of "caustic," you're already well on the way to figuring it out. "Caustic" was borrowed into English in the 14th century from the Latin causticus, which itself derives from the Greek kaustikos. "Kaustikos," in turn, comes from the Greek verb kaiein, meaning "to burn." Other "kaiein" descendants in English include "cautery" and "cauterize," "hypocaust" (an ancient Roman heating system), "causalgia" (a burning pain caused by nerve damage), and "encaustic" (a kind of paint which is heated after it's applied).

Examples of caustic in a Sentence

Adjective His [Roosevelt's] caustic cousin, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, called him a sissy and a mama's boy. — Garry Wills, Atlantic, April 1994 It was Schuyler's gift for satire and his caustic wit that distinguished his writings and led to his nickname, the Black Mencken. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times Book Review, 20 Sept. 1992 Albert quailed before those caustic pronouncements, he shuddered and blanched and felt his stomach drop like a croquette into a vat of hot grease. — T. Coraghessan Boyle, Harper's, October 1987 The chemical was so caustic that it ate through the pipes. She wrote a caustic report about the decisions that led to the crisis.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Many in law enforcement have seen a rise in caustic rhetoric by current and former colleagues. oregonlive, "Why military, law enforcement veterans joined the Capitol insurrection," 15 Jan. 2021 Many in law enforcement have seen a rise in caustic rhetoric by current and former colleagues. Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times, "Why veterans of the military and law enforcement joined the Capitol insurrection," 15 Jan. 2021 Meanwhile, two of the plays set later in time border on satire in their caustic wit. Jake Lamar, The New Republic, "August Wilson’s Uncompromising Vision for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom," 14 Jan. 2021 Interestingly, DeVos has a history of using some rather caustic and divisive language herself. Dustin Hornbeck, The Conversation, "Through her divisive rhetoric, Education Secretary DeVos leaves a troubled legacy of her own," 12 Jan. 2021 To compensate, Alphonso is armed with a caustic and biting sense of humor. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Meet the Members of The Sparrow Academy from "The Umbrella Academy" Season 3," 11 Jan. 2021 The article emerged as a caustic portrait of Mr. Mehta as patrician, paternalistic and patronizing. Margalit Fox, New York Times, "Ved Mehta, Writer Who Illuminated India, Is Dead at 86," 10 Jan. 2021 The spectacle promises to set a caustic backdrop for Mr. Biden’s inauguration in the coming weeks and reflects the polarized politics on Capitol Hill that will be among his greatest challenges. New York Times, "Pence Welcomes Futile Bid by G.O.P. Lawmakers to Overturn Election," 2 Jan. 2021 He was beloved among students, and distrusted by Vatican grandees, for his eccentric habits, which included dressing in a blue plumber's suit and issuing caustic statements about church hypocrisy. Ted Scheinman, Smithsonian Magazine, "Father Reginald Foster Used Latin to Bring History Into the Present," 30 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun What McHugh favored was the fantastic, the caustic, the nakedly human, art with an irreverent or whimsical sense of humor, and art with little remove from raw physicality. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "This Candy Store wasn't a candy store: Remembering a California gallery that made art stars," 3 July 2018 The Sympathizer is the caustic, hyper-verbal tale of a double agent embedded in California after the end of the war, sending information back to Vietnam about the activities of the men who are both his friends and enemies. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, "Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Ghosts," 25 July 2017 Mr. Trump’s other mentor was the caustic and conniving McCarthy-era lawyer Roy Cohn, who counseled Mr. Trump never to give in or concede error. Glenn Thrush And Maggie Haberman, New York Times, "Why Letting Go, for Trump, Is No Small or Simple Task," 21 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caustic.' 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 caustic

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for caustic

Adjective and Noun

Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaiein to burn

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Time Traveler for caustic

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Caustic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caustic. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for caustic

caustic

adjective
How to pronounce caustic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of caustic

: able to destroy or burn something by chemical action
: very harsh and critical

caustic

adjective
caus·​tic | \ ˈkȯ-stik How to pronounce caustic (audio) \

Kids Definition of caustic

1 : capable of eating away by chemical action : corrosive
2 : very harsh and critical caustic remarks

caustic

adjective
caus·​tic | \ ˈkȯ-stik How to pronounce caustic (audio) \

Medical Definition of caustic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: capable of destroying or eating away organic tissue and especially animal tissue by chemical action silver nitrate and sulfuric acid are caustic agents

Other Words from caustic

caustically \ -​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce caustic (audio) \ adverb
causticity \ kȯ-​ˈstis-​ət-​ē How to pronounce caustic (audio) \ noun, plural causticities

caustic

noun

Medical Definition of caustic (Entry 2 of 2)

: a caustic agent: as
a : a substance that burns or destroys organic tissue by chemical action : escharotic
b : a strong corrosive alkali (as sodium hydroxide)

More from Merriam-Webster on caustic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for caustic

Nglish: Translation of caustic for Spanish Speakers

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