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 That the vitriol is softened by a plush melody hardly diminishes the verbal blows. Melissa Ruggieri, USA TODAY, 14 Apr. 2024 Any bottled up vitriol couldn’t be unleashed, not with the subject in a position many grew accustomed to witnessing over a good portion of the past four years. Roderick Boone, Charlotte Observer, 8 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for vitriol 

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 21 Apr. 2024.

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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