vit·​ri·​ol ˈvi-trē-əl How to pronounce vitriol (audio)
: bitterly harsh or caustic language or criticism
political commentators spewing angry vitriol
Rumor has always played a role in politics, but rarely have the backstage operatives been so adroit, and so cynical, in their use of vitriol.Walter Shapiro
Cascades of multisyllabic vitriol engulf us as Conrad communicates his utter loathing of television …Stanley Marcus
: a sulfate of any of various metals (such as copper, iron, or zinc)
especially : a glassy hydrate of such a sulfate
vitriolic adjective
vitriolic personal attacks
a vitriolic debate/dispute

Examples of vitriol in a Sentence

His speech was full of political vitriol. a film critic noted for the vitriol and sometimes outright cruelty of his pronouncements
Recent Examples on the Web In fact, he’s helped Osterhoudt handle the rougher side to the unexpected burst of fame of the past two weeks: the online vitriol. Jonathan Edwards, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2023 Her most recent album, August 2022’s Traumazine, followed years of intense emotional and personal turmoil, online vitriol and legal sagas for the three-time Grammy-winning rapper. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 19 Sep. 2023 Stans are upset with Chalamet for dating Jenner, but their vitriol is aimed firmly at her. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 8 Sep. 2023 The bus was all blacked out, of course, but that didn’t stop people around me from rushing to the sidewalk to hurl their vitriol and flip their birds. Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 But Musk’s actions took the vitriol to another level. Will Oremus, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 Amid the vitriol, members of both parties did come together around a lament from Representative Gerald Connolly, Democrat of Virginia. Sheryl Gay Stolberg,, 20 July 2023 Trump continues to vehemently deny all of the allegations and launched fresh vitriol at Carroll during the disastrous CNN town hall earlier this year. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 6 Sep. 2023 As news of the Byrd’s death spread, members of the KKK came to town to disavow connection to the killing with speeches laced with racist vitriol. Emmanuel Felton, Washington Post, 21 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vitriol.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French vitriole, from Medieval Latin vitriolum, alteration of Late Latin vitreolum, neuter of vitreolus glassy, from Latin vitreus vitreous

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of vitriol was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near vitriol

Cite this Entry

“Vitriol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


vit·​ri·​ol ˈvi-trē-əl How to pronounce vitriol (audio)
: something (as written or spoken words) thought to be as harsh and burning as acid

Medical Definition


vit·​ri·​ol ˈvi-trē-əl How to pronounce vitriol (audio)
: a sulfate of any of various metals (as copper, iron, or zinc)

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