adjective pun·gent \ ˈpən-jənt \
|Updated on: 10 Jul 2018

Definition of pungent

1 : sharply painful
2 : having a stiff and sharp point
  • pungent leaves
3 a : marked by a sharp incisive quality : caustic
  • a pungent critic
  • pungent language
b : being sharp and to the point
4 a : causing a sharp or irritating sensation; especially : acrid
b : having an intense flavor or odor
  • a pungent chili



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Examples of pungent in a Sentence

  1. The left has often complained that what it needs isn't polite speech, but voices as pungent as those on the right. —Jennifer SeniorNew York Times Book Review24 Sept. 2006
  2. I remember the enormous size of that fire and the pungent smell of smoke from the burning chaparral as the flames raced up the slope toward our house. —Tim WhiteCurious Minds2004
  3. Maybe what seems pungent to the locals only becomes alarming when sniffed through a giant Western proboscis, but there are some odors in China that make a visit to Bhopal seem like a picnic downwind from the Arpege factory. —P. J. O'RourkeHolidays in Hell1988
  4. a play with pungent dialogue

  5. a pungent satire of current politics

Recent Examples of pungent from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pungent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of pungent

Latin pungent-, pungens, present participle of pungere to prick, sting; akin to Latin pugnus fist, pugnare to fight, Greek pygmē fist

Synonym Discussion of pungent

pungent, piquant, poignant, racy mean sharp and stimulating to the mind or the senses. pungent implies a sharp, stinging, or biting quality especially of odors.
    • a cheese with a pungent odor
piquant suggests a power to whet the appetite or interest through tartness or mild pungency.
    • a piquant sauce
poignant suggests something is sharply or piercingly effective in stirring one's emotions.
    • felt a poignant sense of loss
racy implies having a strongly characteristic natural quality fresh and unimpaired.
    • spontaneous, racy prose

PUNGENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of pungent for English Language Learners

  • : having a strong, sharp taste or smell

  • : having a strong effect on the mind because of being clever and direct

PUNGENT Defined for Kids


adjective pun·gent \ ˈpən-jənt \

Definition of pungent for Students

: having a strong or sharp taste or smell
  • a pungent odor



Word Root of pungent

The Latin word pungere, meaning “to prick” or “to pierce,” and its form punctus give us the roots pung and punct. Words from the Latin pungere have something to do with pricking or piercing. To puncture is to pierce with something pointed. A pungent smell is one that is so strong and sharp that it pierces the nose. Someone punctual acts at the exact point when the hands of the clock prick the right moment. Punctuation pierces a string of words to form separate sentences.

Medical Dictionary


adjective pun·gent \ -jənt \

medical Definition of pungent

: causing a sharp or irritating sensation; especially : acrid



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one who attends or assists a leader

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