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


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əˈsɜːbɪti/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈsɝbɪdi/
  • (file)


acerbity (countable and uncountable, plural acerbities)

  1. Sourness of taste, with bitterness and astringency, like that of unripe fruit.
  2. Harshness, bitterness, or severity
    acerbity of temper, of language, of pain
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 1, in The Case of Miss Elliott[1]:
      “Well ?” I repeated with some acerbity. I had been wondering for the last ten minutes how many more knots he would manage to make in that same bit of string before he actually started undoing them again.
  3. (countable) Something harsh (e.g. a remark, act or experience).
    • 1848, Elizabeth Gaskell, chapter 16, in Mary Barton[2], volume 2, London: Chapman and Hall, page 222:
      [] the recollection of that yesterday [] made him bear with the meekness and patience of a true-hearted man all the worrying little acerbities of to-day;
    • 1980, Anthony Burgess, chapter 21, in Earthly Powers[3], Penguin, published 1981, page 115:
      This opera was mainly in the style of late Puccini, with acerbities stolen from Stravinsky.


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