Definitions

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

  • n. Sourness or acidness of taste, character, or tone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Sourness of taste, with bitterness and astringency, like that of unripe fruit.
  • n. Harshness, bitterness, or severity; as, acerbity of temper, of language, of pain

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Sourness of taste, with bitterness and astringency, like that of unripe fruit.
  • n. Harshness, bitterness, or severity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Sourness, with roughness or astringency of taste.
  • n. Poignancy or severity.
  • n. Harshness or severity, as of temper or expression.

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

  • n. a rough and bitter manner
  • n. a sharp bitterness
  • n. a sharp sour taste

Etymologies

From French acerbité, from Latin acerbitās ("acerbity; harshness"), from acerbus ("bitter"). See acerb. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In the other countries of Europe, racial and religious acerbity is intensified by economic and political agitation.

    The Social Disability of the Jew

  • Bonaparte a kind of acerbity and bitter irony, of which he long endeavoured to discover the cause.

    Complete Project Gutenberg Collection of Memoirs of Napoleon

  • He perceived in Bonaparte a kind of acerbity and bitter irony, of which he long endeavoured to discover the cause.

    The Memoirs of Napoleon

  • The only modern pictures that accomplish a higher end than that of pleasing the eye -- the only ones that really take hold of my mind, and with a kind of acerbity, like unripe fruit -- are the works of Hunt, and one or two other painters of the

    Passages from the English Notebooks, Volume 2.

  • 'acerbity' meant that 'you ate nothing but vegetable food,' and so on all down the list.

    Rilla of Ingleside

  • Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums) 'The Rehearsal' (circa 1874) Not only that, but almost from the beginning of this big show, the curators, Richard Kendall, Jill DeVonyar and Ann Dumas, look at a darker side of Degas and add a splash of acerbity to the sweetness.

    Degas and His Dancers

  • On the origins of this once-world-shaking combat, with its still-vivid acerbity and cruelty, Hilary Mantel has written a historical novel of quite astonishing power.

    The Men Who Made England

  • Because these shows on Comedy Central are not about critiquing policies as much as they're about critiquing the path to how these policies are enacted -- the galling debates, the mediocre media coverage, the acerbity each side exhibits in their quest to achieve the real, ideal America.

    The Morningside Post: The People's Rally

  • With characteristic acerbity, Mr. Hastings laments that his press colleagues have abandoned the spirit of Vietnam, when "war had been exposed as the Giant Lying Machine, in Halberstam's words."

    Antiwar Reporting

  • Some years back Saul Bellow stirred up a hornet's nest by asking, with his customary acerbity, who the Tolstoy of the Zulus was.

    Chronicling a World Apart

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