1 a : being hardened and thickened
b : having calluses
2 a : feeling no emotion
b : feeling or showing no sympathy for others : hard-hearted
Did You Know?
A callus is a hard, thickened area of skin that develops usually from friction or irritation over time. Such a hardened area often leaves one less sensitive to the touch, so it's no surprise that the adjective callous, in addition to describing skin that is hard and thick, can also be used as a synonym for harsh or insensitive. Both callus and callous derive via Middle English from Latin. The figurative sense of callous entered English almost 300 years after the literal sense, and Robert Louis Stevenson used it aptly when he wrote, in Treasure Island, "But, indeed, from what I saw, all these buccaneers were as callous as the sea they sailed on."
"[Noël Coward] deliberately made the characters callous and cynical. 'You can't sympathise with any of them,' he said. 'If there was heart [in the play] it would have been a sad story.'" — Lloyd Evans, The Spectator, 28 Mar. 2020
"Today we have been appalled by the sight of tens of thousands of irresponsible vacationers flocking to the coast, as if this was just another spring break week, with callous disregard for residents' health and safety." — Bruce Jones, quoted on OregonLive.com, 22 Mar. 2020
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
What 6-letter verb beginning with "o" can mean "to change into bone" or "to become hardened or conventional and opposed to change"?VIEW THE ANSWER
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