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

  • adj. Tending to irritate; repellent: "He became rebarbative, prickly, spiteful” ( Robert Craft).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Irritating, repellent.

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

  • adj. serving or tending to repel


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

French rébarbatif, from Old French, from (se) rebarber, to confront : re-, re- + barbe, beard (from Latin barba; see bhardh-ā- in Indo-European roots).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French rébarbatif, rébarbative ("repellent”, “disagreeable"), from Middle French rebarber ("to oppose”, “to stand up to") (from Old French re- + barbe ("barb”, “beard") (from Latin barba ("beard")) literally, “to stand beard to beard against”) + -atif ("-ative").


  • He claims that in his crime fiction he tones down his trademark use of obscure words, but he slips "rebarbative" into the essay.

    Fun with the New York Times

  • Art Resource, NY Sixth-century mosaic of the Nile River with a crocodile, a duck and lotus flowers So why has this remarkable empire for so long been perceived as abhorrent and rebarbative, when not being dismissed?

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  • It is puzzling and rebarbative, but once you get into its mindset, then it can have a curious grip on the imagination.

    On Herta Müller « Tales from the Reading Room

  • Susan Hertog's "Dangerous Ambition" Ballantine, 493 pages, $30 is about two "New Women" of America and their ever-evolving relationship—one hesitates to say friendship about people so naturally rebarbative—over many decades of the 20th century.

    Gift Guide: History Books

  • Worse still, the piece required Hahn, the epitome of refinement, to make coarse, rebarbative sounds on her instrument and Lisitsa to bang out "chords" with her flat palm.

    Virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn holds her audience rapt but adds some irritants

  • The late Cyril Cusack, a wonderful actor but a rebarbative spirit, used to recount a meeting with Beckett about a possible production of Waiting for Godot in which Cusack told the author that the play is nothing more than a moan of Protestant angst.

    Banville on Beckett: Non-Words or Word Storms?

  • Her ultimate fate was so tragic that it softens whatever harsh feelings one might have about her earlier, rebarbative views.

    A Writer's Contradictions

  • The festival would scarcely be recognisable without one rebarbative example of the avant garde.

    Caledonia; The Gospel at Colonus; Vieux Carré

  • Amid such gothic grimness, this glacier of a work describes the struggle between the nascent civilization of the warriors, as expressed in their traditions, and the rebarbative, retarding, and retaliatory effects of nature, embodied by the fiend.


  • I'm sullying the purity of my rebarbative blog with praising notices like this.

    Alastair Reynolds, Terminal World (2010)


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  • "They took me home that night in Gillian's rebarbatively quotidian motor-car."

    Talking It Over by Julian Barnes, p 48

    March 28, 2018

  • "Still, everyone appeared to be extremely nice, except that that Dr. Greenfield man was a trifle rebarbative. (This was a word which Toby had recently learnt at school and could not now conceive of doing without.)" - Iris Murdoch, The Bell

    June 16, 2008