acid in temper, mood, or tone

Example sentence:
Nate's acerbic humor delighted some people and offended others.

Did you know? Two centuries before "acerbic" first appeared in print in 1865, English speakers were using "acerb," which has the same meaning. These terms ultimately came from the Latin adjective "acerbus," which originally meant "harsh to the taste" or "bitter" and was often used to describe unripe fruit.

"Acerbus" is akin to "acr-, acer" (Latin for "sharp"), which gave rise to such English words as "acrid" and "acrimonious."

"Acerbic" isn't the only common English word to come directly from "acerbus." Can you guess the other? This one is not as obvious as "acerbic."

It's "exacerbate" -- you can see the root in the middle of this word, which means "to make more violent, bitter, or severe."

A*cerb"ic (#), a.

Sour or severe.


© Webster 1913.

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