Word: acerbic

Pronunciation: ə-SƏR-bik

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: (especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today’s vocabulary word is another one pulled from the flashcard pile, but that’s the most common place I’ve ever seen it. Truth be told, I can’t actually recall reading the word “acerbic” in a story before (not that I don’t believe I have, but if I ever did, it’s been a long time since). However, I did see it come up several times while studying vocabulary, and since I found it interesting, I decided it was worth adding it to the list.

“Acerbic” speech is that which is straightforward, presumably to the point of being bitter and harsh. In its archaic or technical sense, “acerbic” indicates a sour or bitter taste. The word supposedly arose in the mid 19th century and comes from the Latin adjective acerbus, meaning “sour-tasting”.

Though I’m still unfamiliar with the word in fiction, I have seen various dictionary examples of “acerbic” being used to describe a particularly sharp manner such as wit or attitude. I’ve also seen it used once as an adjective to directly describe a person, though I can’t yet be sure this is correct. Given that its definition regarding sour taste is considered archaic, you’re most likely to encounter it in its more abstract sense. Keep the word “acerbic” in mind if you like to write characters with brutally sharp wits!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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