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 These sometimes shocking circumstances are related using a potent literary style that combines mordant humor and helpless indignation with ferocious intellect. Washington Post, "Raised in a cult, Lauren Hough’s salvation was the discovery of her own inimitable voice," 17 Apr. 2021 Her embittered, mordant performance simultaneously makes and ruins French Exit, overpowering everything else onscreen while being the only thing really worth watching. Alison Willmore, Vulture, "If Only the Rest of French Exit Were As Good As Michelle Pfeiffer’s Performance," 2 Apr. 2021 In his latest cover, John Cuneo puts a mordant spin on the problem. Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker, "John Cuneo’s “The Polar Opposite”," 1 Mar. 2021 Narrator George Blagden 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. Katherine A. Powers Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Bookmark: When these animals talk, listen," 15 Jan. 2021 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But another three words, albeit unspoken, also pulse beneath this mordant and inventive satire by James Ijames: Examine your assumptions., "Giving the structures of racism a shake in ‘TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever’," 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, "Cristin Milioti Is No One’s Accessory," 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, "Lauren Oyler Is a Tough Critic of Contemporary Fiction. Can Her Novel Do Better?," 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, "When these animals talk, listen: Audiobooks give voice to a cat, a horse, a sheep and others," 14 Dec. 2020

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

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mordant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mordant

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

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