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 caustically (audio) \ adverb
causticity \ kȯ-​ˈsti-​sə-​tē How to pronounce causticity (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

In her few media appearances and public statements, Grisham has proved to be as combative, and even occasionally as caustic, as Sanders could be in her dealings with the news media. Paul Farhi, Washington Post, "Stephanie Grisham is Trump’s communications czar. Only most people wouldn’t know it.," 28 Aug. 2019 Yet Biden also draws critical, even caustic appraisals from younger nonwhite activists who take issue with his record. Bill Barrow, SFChronicle.com, "Biden on racism: Whites ‘can never fully understand’," 15 Sep. 2019 Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the body apparently reacting to a caustic substance that someone breathed in. CBS News, "CDC revises down number of vaping-related illnesses across U.S.," 12 Sep. 2019 Equal parts charming, caustic and indecorous, Sneed may be the closest spiritual link to Palladin himself, one of the most demanding chefs to ever lead a kitchen in Washington. Tim Carman, Washington Post, "Jean-Louis Palladin was D.C.’s original celebrity chef. But his legacy is complicated.," 19 Aug. 2019 The Sontag who emerges from the pages of Moser’s book is difficult to like: selfish and caustic, perpetually self-righteous because perpetually self-loathing. Leslie Jamison, The New Republic, "The Remaking of Susan Sontag," 12 Sep. 2019 In another movie, the caustic, badly behaved Brittany would be relegated to the role of sidekick. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "Brittany Runs A Marathon," 22 Aug. 2019 Indeed, Trump has begun to view the event more tentatively after North Korea canceled its meeting with South Korean officials last week and issued a caustic criticism of White House national security adviser John Bolton. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "What South Korea’s Moon has but Trump does not: A sky-high approval rating," 22 May 2018 Growers leave behind tons of garbage, such as car batteries, propane tanks and food along with other caustic pesticides, herbicides and rodent killers. Los Angeles Times, "Illegal cannabis farms still scarring public lands, two years after Prop. 64," 29 Aug. 2019

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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Last Updated

15 Oct 2019

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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 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 caustically (audio) \ adverb
causticity \ kȯ-​ˈstis-​ət-​ē How to pronounce causticity (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)

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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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