mor·​dant | \ ˈmȯr-dᵊnt How to pronounce mordant (audio) \

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

Adjective 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 Why is Bertolt Brecht, whose poems are perhaps the most poignant and mordant meditations on displacement, ignored? Ariel Dorfman, The New York Review of Books, "Songs of Loss and Reinvention," 17 Nov. 2020 As fine as some of those performances have been, no one has accurately captured her throaty, sotto voce verbal style or mordant wit. Washington Post, "There are many Gloria Steinems in ‘The Glorias.’ One of them was my boss.," 28 Sep. 2020 So reveals Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, the most brilliantly mordant cartoon since Charles Addams left the building. Ralph Benko, Fortune, "Donald Trump is a master of hypnotism. How he used the power on America—and then himself," 27 Sep. 2020 The film’s mordant joke lives on in the fact of Commander in Chief’s accidental presidency. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The World That Kamala Harris Will Navigate," 12 Aug. 2020 But the depiction of a social order in which almost every participant is a gangster of some sort, and the mordant humor the movie finds in this, is Russian through and through. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "‘Why Don’t You Just Die!’ Review: Attempted Murder, but Make It Comedy," 20 Apr. 2020 On the surface, his films are mordant fables about authoritarianism. Jeremy Lybarger, The New York Review of Books, "The Mordant Fables of Juraj Herz," 20 Apr. 2020 The Grammy winner was known for his keen observations and mordant humor. Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times, "The 10 best John Prine songs," 7 Apr. 2020 The dark and mordant joke is, of course, that Trump finds those hateful traits admirable. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Behind the Bewildering Recent Incidents of Anti-Semitism," 16 Dec. 2019

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

Adjective and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for mordant

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

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Last Updated

26 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mordant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for mordant


How to pronounce mordant (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mordant

formal : expressing harsh criticism especially in a way that is funny


mor·​dant | \ ˈmȯrd-ᵊnt How to pronounce mordant (audio) \

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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