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


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

Atwood is patient in unpacking Aunt Lydia’s intentions and executing her plan, and does so with a dash of keen mordant wit. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, "Sequel to 'The Handmaid's Tale,' Margaret Atwood's 'The Testaments,' well worth the wait," 4 Sep. 2019 There’s a whiff of mordant, socially aware wit to this setup. Ty Burr,, "Getting taken for a ride in ‘Stuber’," 10 July 2019 My favorite Jarmusch films, like Dead Man, Mystery Train, and 2016’s quiet masterpiece Paterson, have the proper empathy for their characters to balance their sometimes mordant outlook. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Dead Don’t Die," 14 June 2019 However, anyone who looks forward to curling up for a comfy read with Richard Davenport-Hines’s Enemies Within will suffer an early shock—although the book is in many places funny enough, in its mordant way, to make one laugh out loud. John Banville, The New York Review of Books, "What Made the Old Boys Turn?," 7 Mar. 2019 The title character of this mordant début novel is a hepatologist navigating a divorce. Douglas Preston, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 5 Aug. 2018 Every narrative thread that Holsinger spins offers its own mordant drama, starting with complications involving the Emmas’ mothers and their two closest female friends: a quartet whose camaraderie is about to be severely tested. Michael Upchurch,, "A cautionary tale, richly rooted in local color," 25 July 2019 In particular the subgenre of American short fiction known as minimalism captures … Characterized by the caprice and fatalism of fairy tales, the fiction of Shirley Jackson exerts a mordant, hypnotic spell. The New York Review of Books, "Joyce Carol Oates," 9 May 2019 Born into a family of yarn-spinners with a penchant for mordant humor, MacLean always had storytelling in his blood. Christopher Wallenberg,, "‘City on a Hill’ creator Chuck MacLean knows all about the local flavor," 14 June 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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Statistics for mordant

Last Updated

24 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for mordant

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

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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More from Merriam-Webster on mordant

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mordant

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mordant

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

Comments on mordant

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to fake an opponent out of position

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