mor·​dant | \ˈmȯr-dᵊnt \

Definition of mordant 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : biting and caustic in thought, manner, or style : incisive a mordant wit

2 : acting as a mordant (as in dyeing)

3 : burning, pungent mordant pain



Definition of mordant (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a chemical that fixes a dye in or on a substance by combining with the dye to form an insoluble compound

2 : a corroding substance used in etching


mordanted; mordanting; mordants

Definition of mordant (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to treat with a mordant

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Other Words from mordant


mordantly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for mordant


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?


The etymology of mordant certainly has some bite to it. That word, which came to modern English through Middle French, ultimately derives from the Latin verb mordēre, which means "to bite." In modern parlance, "mordant" usually suggests a wit used with deadly effectiveness. "Mordēre" puts the bite into other English terms, too. For instance, that root gave us the tasty "morsel" ("a tiny bite"). But nibble too many of those and you’ll likely be hit by another "mordēre" derivative: "remorse" ("guilt for past wrongs"), which comes from Latin remordēre, meaning "to bite again."

Examples of mordant in a Sentence


a writer famous for her mordant humor a mordant review of the movie that compared it to having one's teeth pulled for two hours

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

More amusing than their masters are the maids and serving men: Richard Eisloeffel as Valentine's snarky servant, Speed; Stephanie Mattos as Proteus's hilarious help, Launce; and Shanna Sweeney as Julia's mordant minion, Lucetta. Irene Hsiao, Chicago Reader, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," 13 July 2018 Solomon turned to him and, per usual, turned a little mordant. August Brown,, "Locals Moaning craft anxious music for an increasingly nervous local scene," 7 Mar. 2018 However monstrous that title may be, its phrasing produces a typically mordant Albee joke. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: Is Edward Albee ‘At Home at the Zoo’? You Bet He Is.," 21 Feb. 2018 Which is a funny word to use regarding a mordant modern musical in which bodies are mercilessly hacked to bits and served as restaurant delicacies. Christopher Arnott,, "Terrence Mann Kills It As 'Sweeney Todd' At CT Rep," 26 June 2018 Summoned to court in the middle of the night by the king’s messenger with news that rebel factions are joining forces, Hal rehearses for the meeting with his surrogate father, Falstaff, his mentor in debauchery and mordant repartee. Charles Mcnulty,, "Tom Hanks, Hamish Linklater and a 'Henry IV' worthy of applause," 10 June 2018 In the final novel of a mordant trilogy, the narrator, Faye, a British writer, attends a literary festival in Europe. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 6 June 2018 Schrader is not afraid to draw out the mordant humor in the situation, or to punctuate Toller's grimly mounting despair with a darkly cynical laugh. Justin Chang,, "The bracing 'First Reformed,' starring a superb Ethan Hawke, resurrects Paul Schrader's career," 17 May 2018 Serious, real-world topics, including police corruption and alcoholism, were refreshing additions to the genre, and Hill Street mixed them with elements traditionally kept separate, including soapy serial romance and mordant humor. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Remembering Steven Bochco, TV producer behind 'Hill Street,' 'L.A. Law,' 'NYPD Blue'," 2 Apr. 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1791, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1836, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mordant


Middle French, present participle of mordre to bite, from Latin mordēre; perhaps akin to Sanskrit mṛdnāti he presses, rubs


see mordant entry 1

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The first known use of mordant was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for mordant



English Language Learners Definition of mordant

: expressing harsh criticism especially in a way that is funny


mor·​dant | \ˈmȯrd-ᵊnt \

Medical Definition of mordant 

: a chemical that fixes a dye in or on a substance by combining with the dye to form an insoluble compound

Other Words from mordant

mordant transitive verb

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Comments on mordant

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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