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From Latin scaber (scabrous, rough; scabby, mangy, itchy) (from scabō (to scratch, scrape, abrade), from Proto-Indo-European *skabʰ- (to scratch)) + English -ous; compare French scabreux, Late Latin scabrōsus.



scabrous (comparative more scabrous, superlative most scabrous)

  1. Covered with scales or scabs; hence, very coarse or rough.
    After the incident with the gasoline, Noel’s burnt arm remained scabrous, and was susceptible to infections.
  2. (figuratively) Disgusting, repellent, repulsive, vile.
    The novel was a flagrantly scabrous bodice-ripper, and Rachael was ashamed to read it in public.
    • 2017 January 19, Peter Bradshaw, “T2 Trainspotting review – choose a sequel that doesn’t disappoint”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 20 January 2017:
      What began as a zeitgeisty outlaw romp in the Uncool Britannia of the 1990s is now reborn as a scabrous and brutal black comedy about middle-aged male disappointment and fear of death.
  3. (figuratively) Of music, writing, etc.: lacking refinement, harsh, rough; unmelodious, unmusical.
    • 1693, John Dryden, “The Dedication”, in Juvenal; Persius; John Dryden, [William Congreve, and Nahum Tate], transl., The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. By Mr. Dryden and Several Other Eminent Hands. Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. Made English by Mr. Dryden. With Explanatory Notes at the End of each Satire. To which is Prefix’d a Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Earl of Dorset, &c. By Mr. Dryden, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson at the Judge's-Head in Chancery-Lane, near Fleetstreet, OCLC 80026745, page xxx:
      [A]s his Verse is ſcabrous, and hobbling, and his Words not every where well choſen, the purity of Latin being more corrupted, than in the time of Juvenal, and conſequently of Horace, who writ when the Language was in the heighth of its perfection; ſo his diction is hard; his Figures are generally too bold and daring; and his Tropes, particularly his Metaphors, inſufferably ſtrain'd.
  4. (figuratively) Difficult, thorny, troublesome.
  5. (figuratively, chiefly US) Covered with a crust of dirt or grime.


  • (covered with scales or scabs): scurfy

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