Definition of mordant
- a mordant wit
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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
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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."
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
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