\ ˈhärsh How to pronounce harsh (audio) \

Definition of harsh

1 : having a coarse uneven surface that is rough or unpleasant to the touch granite stones harsh with lichen— Nancy Hale
2a : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from harsh

harshly adverb
harshness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of harsh in a Sentence

The climate there is very harsh. We've had an extremely harsh winter. It's time for her to face the harsh realities of this situation. The accident serves as a harsh reminder of the importance of wearing a seat belt. The lighting in the room was very harsh. The state has established harsh penalties for drug dealers. She has been criticized for her harsh treatment of her students. He was sentenced to a harsh prison term. He had harsh words for his opponent. She has faced some extremely harsh criticism.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In some cases, the relationship between the infraction and its punishment is logical even if the penalty might seem harsh, such as the recent sentencing of a Cuban in the town of Guantánamo to one year in prison for not wearing a mask. Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal," 15 May 2020 The novel coronavirus outbreak in Spain, already among the harshest in the world, will continue to expand, with more cases and deaths over the next few days, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. Thomas Gualtieri, Bloomberg.com, "Spain’s Coronavirus Outbreak to Worsen in Next Days, PM Warns," 10 May 2020 India’s lockdown has been the harshest in the world, made worse by the fact that it was accompanied by little planning and foresight. Shoaib Daniyal, Quartz India, "It’s working… it’s not: The Indian government’s view of the coronavirus lockdown," 28 Apr. 2020 Subjectively, the xDrive specific and optional adaptive dampers ($700) feel slightly tauter than the rear-drive's dampers, so the ride quality is a touch harsh, even in the Comfort setting. David Beard, Car and Driver, "2020 BMW M340i xDrive: Drivers and Passengers Might Not Agree on How to Enjoy It," 23 Apr. 2020 This hand sanitizer includes ingredients like sweet almond oil, marula oil, geranium oil, and aloe to help keep your hands soft despite the harsh, drying alcohols that are meant to keep them clean. Tanya Ghahremani, Travel + Leisure, "These Hand Sanitizers Are Still Available Online Right Now," 23 Apr. 2020 And treating those breakouts with harsh, drying acne treatments usually just isn’t an option. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "This Cult-Favorite Exfoliant Is the Only Thing That Truly Clears Up My Acne," 22 Apr. 2020 The somewhat-harsh reality is that cake testers, while handy in so many ways, simply aren’t great (or even good) at testing cakes. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, "Toothpicks Are the Only Cake Testers You Need," 31 Mar. 2020 In fact, nearly every clip shown by Microsoft today emphasized harsh environments (read: lots of rain, some lightning). Los Angeles Times, "What Microsoft’s Xbox Series X preview does and doesn’t tell us about the future of gaming," 7 May 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of harsh

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for harsh

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about harsh

Time Traveler for harsh

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for harsh

Last Updated

31 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Harsh.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harsh. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for harsh


How to pronounce harsh (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of harsh

: 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


\ ˈhärsh How to pronounce harsh (audio) \
harsher; harshest

Kids Definition of harsh

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

Other Words from harsh

harshly adverb
harshness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on harsh

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harsh

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with harsh

Spanish Central: Translation of harsh

Nglish: Translation of harsh for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of harsh for Arabic Speakers

Comments on harsh

What made you want to look up harsh? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!