Definitions

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

  • adj. Capable of burning, corroding, dissolving, or eating away by chemical action.
  • adj. Corrosive and bitingly trenchant; cutting. See Synonyms at sarcastic.
  • adj. Causing a burning or stinging sensation, as from intense emotion: "Most of all, there is caustic shame for my own stupidity” ( Scott Turow).
  • n. A caustic material or substance.
  • n. A hydroxide of a light metal.
  • n. The enveloping surface formed by light rays reflecting or refracting from a curved surface, especially one with spherical aberration.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Capable of burning, corroding or destroying organic tissue
  • adj. sharp, bitter, cutting, biting, sarcastic
  • n. Any substance or means which, applied to animal or other organic tissue, burns, corrodes, or destroys it by chemical action; an escharotic.
  • n. The envelope of reflected or refracted rays of light for a given surface or object.
  • n. The envelope of reflected or refracted rays for a given curve.
  • n. caustic soda

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Capable of destroying the texture of anything or eating away its substance by chemical action; burning; corrosive; searing.
  • adj. Severe; satirical; sharp.
  • n. Any substance or means which, applied to animal or other organic tissue, burns, corrodes, or destroys it by chemical action; an escharotic.
  • n. A caustic curve or caustic surface.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Capable of burning, corroding, or destroying the tissue of animal substances. See causticity.
  • Figuratively, severely critical or sarcastic; cutting: as, a caustic remark.
  • The curved surface to which all the rays of a conical pencil of light entering a refractive medium are tangential.

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

  • n. any chemical substance that burns or destroys living tissue
  • adj. harsh or corrosive in tone
  • adj. of a substance, especially a strong acid; capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action

Etymologies

Middle English caustik, from Latin causticus, from Greek kaustikos, from kaustos, from kaiein, kau-, to burn.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the Greek καυστός (kaustos, "burnt"), via the Latin causticus ("burning"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • While on this subject of caustic potash, it cannot be too often repeated that _caustic potash_ is a totally different article to _caustic soda_, though just like it in appearance, and therefore often sold as such.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 360, November 25, 1882

  • The common caustic, called _lunar caustic_, is a compound formed by the union of nitric acid and silver; and it is supposed to owe its caustic qualities to the oxygen contained in the nitric acid.

    Conversations on Chemistry, V. 1-2 In Which the Elements of that Science Are Familiarly Explained and Illustrated by Experiments

  • The term caustic to a tender ear (and I conceive none feel more interested in this inquiry than the anxious guardians of a nursery) may sound harsh and unpleasing, but every solicitude that may arise on this account will no longer exist when it is understood that the pustule, in a state fit to be acted upon, is then quite superficial, and that it does not occupy the space of a silver penny. 25

    On Vaccination Against Smallpox

  • The term caustic to a tender ear (and I conceive none feel more interested in this inquiry than the anxious guardians of a nursery) may sound harsh and unpleasing, but every solicitude that may arise on this account will no longer exist when it is understood that the pustule, in a state fit to be acted upon, is then quite superficial, and that it does not occupy the space of

    The Harvard Classics Volume 38 Scientific Papers (Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology)

  • The term caustic to a tender ear (and I conceive none feel more interested in this inquiry than the anxious guardians of a nursery) may sound harsh and unpleasing, but every solicitude that may arise on this account will no longer exist when it is understood that the pustule, in a state fit to be acted upon, is then quite superficial, and that it does not occupy the space of a silver penny.

    II. Further Observations on the Variolae Vaccinae, or Cow-Pox. 1799

  • Vitriol is what we call a caustic-a liquid that burns.

    A Breath of Snow and Ashes

  • When the water receded, their focus was on rebuilding their house, not on what the floodwaters left behind, an 8-inch coating of mud with an orange layer of what they described as caustic sodium.

    theadvertiser.com -

  • KOLONTAR, Hungary - The disaster that buried three Hungarian villages in caustic red sludge last week is deepening the gloom of a country gripped by recession, polarization and the near-ubiquitous feeling that its people are doomed to be victims of calamity.

    Hungarian sludge disaster darkens mood

  • Breathing in caustic products may cause irritation of the nose, throat, airways, and stomach.

    Caustics

  • He spent the hours of travel in coining caustic remonstrances against being treated in the way he had been, but when he arrived and found her having tea in the hotel drawing-room looking quite fresh and young, he decided to postpone them, and all he said was: “Well, Fanny, you look quite bobbish.”

    On Forsyte 'Change

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "The curved surface to which all the rays of a conical pencil of light entering a refractive medium are tangential." --CD&C

    March 16, 2012