from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Bitingly sarcastic.
  • adjective Incisive and trenchant.
  • adjective Bitingly painful.
  • adjective Serving to fix colors in dyeing.
  • noun A reagent, such as tannic acid, that fixes dyes to cells, tissues, or textiles or other materials.
  • noun A corrosive substance, such as an acid, used in etching.
  • transitive verb To treat with a mordant.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To imbue or treat with a mordant.
  • Biting; keen; caustic; sarcastic; severe.
  • Having the property of fixing colors.
  • noun A metal chape covering one end of a strap or belt, especially if so arranged as to hook into a clasp on the other end to facilitate securing the belt round the person.
  • noun In the fine arts:

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Biting; caustic; sarcastic; keen; severe.
  • adjective (Dyeing & Calico Printing) Serving to fix colors.
  • noun Any corroding substance used in etching.
  • noun (Dyeing & Calico Printing) Any substance, as alum or copperas, which, having a twofold attraction for organic fibers and coloring matter, serves as a bond of union, and thus gives fixity to, or bites in, the dyes.
  • noun (Gilding) Any sticky matter by which the gold leaf is made to adhere.
  • transitive verb To subject to the action of, or imbue with, a mordant.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective biting; caustic; sarcastic; keen; severe.
  • noun Any substance used to facilitate the fixing of a dye to a fibre; usually a metallic compound which reacts with the dye using chelation.
  • verb transitive To subject to the action of, or imbue with, a mordant.

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

  • adjective harshly ironic or sinister
  • adjective of a substance, especially a strong acid; capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action
  • noun a substance used to treat leather or other materials before dyeing; aids in dyeing process


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

[French, from Old French, present participle of mordre, to bite, from Vulgar Latin *mordere, from Latin mordēre; see mer- in Indo-European roots.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word mordant.



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

  • I'd been familiar with this word in the "biting" or "caustic" sense, but not as a substance used to fix dyes. (From Sea Room by Adam Nicolson: "In order to reduce the liquidity of the animal end, the householders 'attended on their cows with large vessels to throw out the wash' - or to keep it as mordant for dyes - 'but still it must be wet and unwholesome" (pp 241-242)

    May 8, 2007

  • means biting

    June 23, 2008

  • Usage note in comment on cardinal purple.

    October 4, 2017