harsh

adjective \ ˈhärsh \
Updated on: 19 Nov 2017

Definition of harsh

1 : having a coarse uneven surface that is rough or unpleasant to the touch
  • granite stones harsh with lichen
  • —Nancy Hale
2 a : causing a disagreeable or painful sensory reaction : irritating
  • harsh colors
  • harsh lighting
  • her harsh high-pitched voice
  • The horseradish was too harsh for the children.
: overly intense or powerful
  • harsh chemicals
b : physically discomforting
  • The climate there is very harsh.
  • a harsh winter
: unpleasant and difficult to accept or experience
  • the harsh realities of poverty
  • a harsh reminder of the importance of wearing a seat belt
3 : excessively critical or negative
  • had some harsh words for her opponent
  • a harsh critic
: unduly severe in making demands
  • harsh discipline
4 : lacking in aesthetic appeal or refinement : crude
  • a harsh and sometimes unpleasant book, barren of pretty touches
  • —Brendan Gill

harshly

adverb

harshness

noun

Examples of harsh in a Sentence

  1. The climate there is very harsh.

  2. We've had an extremely harsh winter.

  3. It's time for her to face the harsh realities of this situation.

  4. The accident serves as a harsh reminder of the importance of wearing a seat belt.

  5. The lighting in the room was very harsh.

  6. The state has established harsh penalties for drug dealers.

  7. She has been criticized for her harsh treatment of his students.

  8. He was sentenced to a harsh prison term.

  9. He had harsh words for his opponent.

  10. She has faced some extremely harsh criticism.

Recent Examples of harsh from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of harsh

Middle English harsk, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian harsk harsh

Synonym Discussion of harsh

rough, harsh, uneven, rugged, scabrous mean not smooth or even. rough implies points, bristles, ridges, or projections on the surface.
    • a rough wooden board
harsh implies a surface or texture distinctly unpleasant to the touch.
    • a harsh fabric that chafes the skin
uneven implies a lack of uniformity in height, breadth, or quality.
    • an old house with uneven floors
rugged implies irregularity or roughness of land surface and connotes difficulty of travel.
    • a rugged landscape
scabrous implies scaliness or prickliness of surface.
    • a scabrous leaf

HARSH Defined for English Language Learners

harsh

adjective

Definition of harsh for English Language Learners

  • : unpleasant and difficult to accept or experience

  • : having an unpleasant or harmful effect because of great strength or force : too intense or powerful

  • : severe or cruel : not kind


HARSH Defined for Kids

harsh

adjective \ ˈhärsh \

Definition of harsh for Students

harsher; harshest
1 : causing physical discomfort
  • a harsh climate
2 : having an unpleasant or harmful effect often because of great force or intensity
  • a harsh sound
  • a harsh soap
3 : severe or cruel : not kind or lenient
  • harsh punishment

harshly

adverb

harshness

noun


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