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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.
    • 1737, J[ohn] Bevis, “An Observation of an Occultation of Mars by the Moon, in Covent-Garden, 1736”, in Philosophical Transactions. Giving Some Account of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours, of the Ingenious, in Many Considerable Parts of the World, volume XL, number 446, London: Printed for T. Woodward, at the Half-Moon, between the Temple-Gates in Fleetstreet; and C. Davis in Paternoster-row, printers to the Royal Society, OCLC 630046584, page 101:
      I was ſurpriz'd to ſee Mars continue quite round, though hardly, to Appearance, disjoin'd from the ſcabrous Edge of the Moon; but that Inſtant I thought it began to loſe its Figure.—Clouds.
    • 1752, John Hill, “Lumbricus”, in An History of Animals. Containing Descriptions of the Birds, Beasts, Fishes, and Insects, of the Several Parts of the World; and including Accounts of the Several Classes of Animalcules, Visible only by the Assistance of Microscopes. [...], London: Printed for Thomas Osborne, in Gray's-Inn, OCLC 946104156, part I, book II (Of Insects), page 15:
      Lumbricus ſcaber. The rough Lumbricus. The Sea-worm. This ſpecies grows to a foot, or more, in length, and to the thickneſs of a man's finger. It is of a pale red colour, and is compoſed of a number of rings or annular joints, as it were, in the manner of the other; but the ſkin is ſcabrous, and all theſe rings are covered with little prominences, ſo that it is extreamly rough to the touch.
    • 1836, Amos Eaton, “Helianthemum, Cistus”, in Manual of Botany, for North America: Containing Generic and Specific Descriptions of the Indigenous Plants and Common Cultivated Exotics, Growing North of the Gulf of Mexico, 7th edition, Albany, N.Y.: Oliver Steele, OCLC 950907757, page 328:
      [Helianthus] frondosus, [] stem smooth below, leaves lance ovate, remotely and acutely serrate, scabrous above, paler and sub-scabrous beneath, 3-nerved: peduncles scabrous; petiole ciliate; calyx squarose, undulate, leafy, ciliate: rays 8-flowered.
    • 1934, John Keats, “Lecture 5. Diseases of Veins.”, in Maurice Buxton Forman, editor, John Keats’s Anatomical and Physiological Note Book: Printed from the Holograph in the Keats Museum, Hampstead, London: Oxford University Press, OCLC 456487937; republished New York, N.Y.: Haskell House Publishers, 1970, OCLC 663427066, page 44:
      The Veins of old Persons are apt to become varicose and this is where the greatest column of Blood—the Veins loosing their power is the cause of the disease. The Blood by this Means is not kept from gravitating to ye foot the Consequences are Scabrous Skin and Ulcers.
  2. (figuratively) Disgusting, repellent, repulsive, vile.
    The novel was a flagrantly scabrous bodice-ripper, and Rachael was ashamed to read it in public.
    • 1959, Tertullian; William P. Le Saint, transl., Treatises on Penance: On Penitence and On Purity (Ancient Christian Writers; 28), Westminster, Md.: Newman Press; London: Longmans Green, OCLC 67475529; republished New York, N.Y.; Ramsey, N.J.: Paulist Press, c. 1978, →ISBN, page 118:
      This typifies the man, body and soul, who is transformed after Baptism, that is to say, after the entrance of the priest, and then takes up once more the scabrous contaminations of the flesh.
    • 1973, David G. Epstein, “The Spontaneous Settlements”, in Brasília, Plan and Reality: A Study of Planned and Spontaneous Urban Development, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.; London: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 106:
      In the Pilot Plan, women shop in brightly lit, hygienic supermarkets; in the Social Security Invasion, they must be content with tiny rat-infested shops or scabrous open air markets.
    • 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.
    • 1939, F[rederick] C[harles] Green, “The Novelist: 1821–1830”, in Stendhal, Cambridge: At the University Press, OCLC 882730361, page 188:
      In January 1826 Stendhal wrote for The New Monthly Review a lengthy account of a novel called Olivier which was then the talk of the Paris salons. The author of this highly romantic, scabrous and worthless fiction was Henri de la Touche, but all believed, as the publisher intended that they should, that Olivier was from the pen of the famous Mme [Claire] de Duras []
  4. (figuratively) Difficult, thorny, troublesome.
    • [1845–1847], [Jules] Michelet; G. H. Smith, transl., “[Book the Thirteenth.] Chapter II. Louis XI. Revolution Attempted by Him. a.d. 1462–1464”, in History of France, volume I, London: Whittaker and Co., Ave Maria Lane, OCLC 6823073, page 232, column 1:
      These were things which gave him [Louis XI of France] no concern; and he went on alone, without taking any advice, in the scabrous path of novelty, turning his back on antiquity, and laughing at it. When solemnly remonstrated with by its most venerable representatives, he smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
  5. (figuratively, chiefly US) Covered with a crust of dirt or grime.


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