caustic

adjective
caus·tic | \ˈkȯs-tik \

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
caus·tic | \ˈkȯs-tik \

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 \-ti-k(ə-)lē \ adverb
causticity \kȯ-ˈsti-sə-tē \ 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

Joshua Harmon’s brilliantly caustic comedy received rave reviews in its 2013 off-Broadway run. F. Kathleen Foley, latimes.com, "The 99-Seat Beat: 'ICE," 'Noises Off,' 'Bad Jews' and more," 27 Apr. 2018 Oh is terrific as the title character, creating a complex woman who’s caustic, witty, intense and imperfect. Glenn Whipp, latimes.com, "Emmy snubs and surprises: New faces are in, old institutions are out and Sandra Oh makes history," 12 July 2018 And the thing is, the Democrats are going to need some -- one, new ideas, not to be so vitriolic and caustic and divisive. Fox News, "Senate fight awaits Trump's Supreme Court pick," 10 July 2018 Fast forward to 2014, when caustic commentary from comedian Hannibal Buress went viral and brought her complaint back to the forefront. NBC News, "Reporter's notebook: Andrea Constand says she's found her peace," 29 May 2018 His directorial debut sports a similar caustic tone, a banality interrupted by sudden, shocking violence. Richard Lawson, HWD, "Trump Anxiety Looms Large Over Sundance’s First Night," 20 Jan. 2017 One of the postulants is Barbara Prate, a bright, occasionally caustic 45-year-old nurse from New Jersey. Kristina Krug, Smithsonian, "Meet the Americans Following in the Footsteps of the Knights Templar," 28 June 2018 She was charged with malicious wounding by caustic substance. Lisa M. Bolton, Washington Post, "Prince William County," 27 June 2018 Navarro, a former UC Irvine economics professor, has made caustic remarks before in advocating hard-hitting actions on trade, particularly against China. Don Lee, latimes.com, "Navarro apologizes for 'special place in hell' remark about Canada's prime minister," 12 June 2018

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

Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaiein to burn

Noun

see caustic entry 1

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Statistics for caustic

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for caustic

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

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More Definitions for caustic

caustic

adjective

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 \

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 \

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 \ adverb
causticity \kȯ-ˈstis-ət-ē \ 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)

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More from Merriam-Webster on caustic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for caustic

Spanish Central: Translation of caustic

Nglish: Translation of caustic for Spanish Speakers

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