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

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 that is 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 Known for his whipsaw plotting and razor-sharp dialogue, McDonagh is back on Broadway with his spectacularly mordant Hangmen (at the Golden Theater, with previews opening April 8), helmed by Matthew Dunster and starring Alfie Allen. Liz Appel, Vogue, 20 Apr. 2022 This mordant novel takes the form of a diary, with sections named for the women who have most profoundly shaped the narrator’s life: his mistress, his girlfriend, his sister-in-law, his sister, and his mother. The New Yorker, 10 Jan. 2022 Maureen Howard, a writer acclaimed for the mordant humor and refined, shimmering prose of novels that often examined the lives of self-critical women seeking to find their place in the world, died March 13 at a hospital in Manhattan. Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2022 Narrating from the perspective of a chorus of unseen Jidadans, Bulawayo displays a mordant wit with a delightful, off-kilter edge. New York Times, 6 Mar. 2022 In James’s often mordant writing, the series follows a chorus of shape-shifting characters who live at the edges of the animal and human worlds and are in search of an unidentified missing boy. Tiana Reid, WSJ, 2 Mar. 2022 My tendency in such situations is to turn my role into shtick—I’m the wisecracking Daria, the mordant brunette, the one whose qualities will age well. Jennifer Senior, The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2022 That would be Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, who are immensely appealing as a young couple who meet cute in opening scenes—before the movie takes a mordant turn and the blood starts to flow. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 4 Feb. 2022 Gillan’s dry double performance in the lead is most memorable, along with a hilariously mordant Aaron Paul as her combat trainer. David Sims, The Atlantic, 27 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The actors are nimble with Letts’ mordant, deceptively situational humor, and in embodying their characters’ chilling complacency. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 17 Apr. 2022 Loudon, 70-something patriarch, inhabits the canopy; from folkie to singing surgeon to some measure of each, adjoining the mordant to the serious. Nathan Rizzo | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 1 Nov. 2021 But Stewart’s take on Diana gives this film a wicked sense of humor too, emphasizing how her mordant sarcasm clashed just as uncomfortably with the royal family as her independent streak did. David Sims, The Atlantic, 25 Sep. 2021 But another three words, albeit unspoken, also pulse beneath this mordant and inventive satire by James Ijames: Examine your assumptions., 1 May 2021 Petite, quietly savage, with a sense of humor that can skew either goofy or mordant, Milioti, 35, is not the girl next door. New York Times, 26 Mar. 2021 The writing is brilliant, bringing to life a narrator with a penetrating gaze and a mordant, misanthropic voice. Scott W. Stern, The New Republic, 11 Feb. 2021 Narrator George Blagden beautifully captures the tenor of Nana’s mordant wit, his lofty view of himself, and his frequent spates of umbrage at human presumption and sheer stupidity. Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near mordant



mordant acid dye

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Last Updated

25 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mordant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for mordant


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

More from Merriam-Webster on mordant

Nglish: Translation of mordant for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about mordant


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