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See also: càustic



From the Latin causticus (burning), from the Ancient Greek καυστικός (kaustikós, burning).


  • enPR: kôs'tĭk, kŏs'tĭk, IPA(key): /ˈkɔːstɪk/, /ˈkɒstɪk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔːstɪk


caustic (comparative more caustic, superlative most caustic)

  1. Capable of burning, corroding or destroying organic tissue.
  2. (of language, etc.) Sharp, bitter, cutting, biting, and sarcastic in a scathing way.
    • 1843, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol:
      "How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
    • 1843, Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit:
      The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been expected though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and cast much unnecessary opposition in the way
    • 1853, Charlotte Brontë, Villette
      Madame Beck esteemed me learned and blue; Miss Fanshawe, caustic, ironic, and cynical
    • 1857, Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks:
      The Secretary and the Assistant-Secretaries would say little caustic things about him to the senior clerks, and seemed somewhat to begrudge him his new honours.
    • 1886, Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge:
      this set of worthies, who were only too prone to shut up their emotions with caustic words.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 8, in The Celebrity:
      The humor of my proposition appealed more strongly to Miss Trevor than I had looked for, and from that time forward she became her old self again; [] . Our table in the dining-room became again the abode of scintillating wit and caustic repartee, Farrar bracing up to his old standard, and the demand for seats in the vicinity rose to an animated competition.
    • c. 1930, W.H.Auden, "The Quest"
      though he came too late / To join the martyrs, there was still a place / Among the tempters for a caustic tongue / / To test the resolution of the young / With tales of the small failings of the great


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caustic (plural caustics)

  1. Any substance or means which, applied to animal or other organic tissue, burns, corrodes, or destroys it by chemical action; an escharotic.
  2. (optics, computer graphics) The envelope of reflected or refracted rays of light for a given surface or object.
  3. (mathematics) The envelope of reflected or refracted rays for a given curve.
  4. (informal, chemistry) Caustic soda.

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