Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Unpleasantly coarse and rough to the touch. See Synonyms at rough.
  • adj. Disagreeable to the senses, especially to the sense of hearing.
  • adj. Severe, cruel, or exacting: harsh punishment; a harsh overseer.
  • adj. Unpleasant or uncomfortable: a harsh wilderness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Unpleasantly rough to the touch or other senses.
  • adj. Severe or cruel.
  • v. To negatively criticize.
  • v. to put a damper on (a mood).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Rough; disagreeable; grating.
  • adj. disagreeable to the touch.
  • adj. disagreeable to the taste.
  • adj. disagreeable to the ear.
  • adj. Unpleasant and repulsive to the sensibilities; austere; crabbed; morose; abusive; abusive; severe; rough.
  • adj. Having violent contrasts of color, or of light and shade; lacking in harmony.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Rough to the touch or to any of the senses; sharp or sour to the taste, discordant to the ear, inharmonious to the eye, etc.; grating; rasping; acrid; irritating: as, a harsh surface; harsh fruit; a harsh voice; a harsk combination of colors.
  • Hard or severe in effect; of such a nature as to be repellent from any physical point of view.
  • Repugnant to the mind or the sensibilities; mentally or morally forbidding; hard to bear, endure, resolve upon, etc.
  • Austere in character or severe in action; stern; hard; unkind.
  • Synonyms and Severe, Rigorous, etc. (see austere); acrimonious, ill-natured, ill-tempered, uncivil, ungracious, churlish, brutal.
  • To sound harshly; crack.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unpleasantly stern
  • adj. disagreeable to the senses
  • adj. sharply disagreeable; rigorous
  • adj. severe
  • adj. of textures that are rough to the touch or substances consisting of relatively large particles
  • adj. unkind or cruel or uncivil

Etymologies

Middle English harsk, of Scandinavian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Middle Low German harsch ("rough"), literally "hairy," from haer ("hair"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • JOHN KING, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don't know if I use the term harsh battle, but Many think the president has to strike a new tone in the relationships.

    CNN Transcript Dec 1, 2004

  • Last September, thousands of blacks descended on Jena, La., to protest what they called the harsh charging of six African-American high-school students by a local prosecutor for the serious beating of a white classmate.

    Black in a New Light

  • So why did the CIA destroy videotapes that reportedly show what they called harsh techniques, harsh interrogation techniques?

    CNN Transcript Dec 11, 2007

  • BLITZER: You know, governor, a lot of Democrats, a lot of Gore supporters have been complaining about what they describe as harsh rhetoric coming from you, from Karen Hughes, the communication director for Governor Bush.

    CNN Transcript - Special Event: Florida Supreme Court Considering Validity of Manual Recounts - November 21, 2000

  • The benevolent man reproved the keeper for what he called harsh words.

    Friends and Neighbors

  • CNN -- Hundreds of California prisoners remain on hunger strike in protest of what they describe as their harsh treatment, though state authorities and inmate-rights advocates differed over the numbers involved.

    CNN.com

  • On Monday, three Americans freed after being held in Iran lent their support to the Occupy movement, applauding its participants' idealism and activism while making a specific point to protest what they call the harsh treatment of state prisoners in California.

    CNN.com

  • LA Times: Detainee says he lied to CIA in harsh interrogations

    POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: June 16, 2009

  • For them to even advocate individual boycotts is hypocritical, given that Mexico, which they refuse to even criticize about its immigration policies, has much harsher restrictions on immigration than Arizona (reflected in harsh prison sentences) — and on not just illegal aliens (as in Arizona) but legal aliens as well (restricting the civil liberties and political rights of legal aliens).

    The Volokh Conspiracy » What Will Kagan Say about AZ Immigration Law

  • From your original post where you said: “certain harsh American critics of Israel, who surely think of themselves as enlightened people with no prejudice against Jews, could launch certain types of venomous attacks against Jewish supporters of Israel” one might think that the phrase “who surely think of themselves as enlightened people with no prejudice” sort of suggest that that is not thecase.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Jews, Liberalism, Nationalism–Some Interesting Historical Continuities

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