Someone or something acerbic is sour, sharp, bitter, and harsh.
(You can see how this word is closely related to "acid.")
uh SIR bick
Part of speech:
Adjectives are describing words, like “large” or “late.”
They can be used in two ways:
1. Right before a noun, as in “an acerbic observation.”
2. After a linking verb, as in "The observation was acerbic.”
Acerbically, acerbity, acerbate (meaning to make sour or bitter,) acerbated, acerbating.
We don't see the verb "acerbate" as often as we see the closely related one, "exacerbate." They both mean to make something worse: to make something even more bitter or sour or terrible. We'll take a closer look at these later on in a separate issue.
How to use it:
You can be literal and talk about acerbic tastes and acerbic smells, but more often you're figurative: you talk about acerbic speech, acerbic behavior, and acerbic attitudes.
More specifically, talk about acerbic people, acerbic personalities, acerbic comments and accusations, acerbic responses, acerbic criticism, acerbic comedies, acerbic satire, etc.
"Acerbic wit" is such a common phrase that I actually caution you against it. It's becoming cliché.
My history professor in college came off as an acerbic old meanie at first, but we caught him chuckling and smiling warmly more and more as the semester progressed.
Looking back now, it's easier to see how their relationship had taken on an acerbic flavor long before they called it quits.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "acerbic" means when you can explain it without saying "corrosive" or "sour."
Think of a situation or topic that makes you a little sour, a little bitter, or a little harsh, and fill in the blanks: "I tend(ed) to get a bit acerbic when/whenever/about _____."
Example: "I tend to get a bit acerbic about chronically late people who freak out if they have to wait for someone else."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
Our October game references some material that may be protected by copyright. I appreciate your understanding as I err on the side of caution by not publishing it here!
A Point Well Made:
Louis Brandeis: “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.”
1. The opposites of ACERBIC are
A. CREAMY and SMOOTH
B. GENTLE and SWEET
C. OPTIMISTIC and OPEN-MINDED
2. His opening comments about _____ set an acerbic tone for the essay.
A. the need for better methods than self-reporting
B. the current culture of self-obsession and unwarranted self-esteem
C. the problems inherent in a constantly changing landscape of social media tools
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Earlier this year, we looked at an opposite of today's word. It means "overly sweet," it starts with "s," and it has three syllables. Could you recall it? Here it is.
Also, you'll find that acerbic people tend to be abrasive, and vice versa. Which of these two words is the better description for speech that seems to sting? And which is better for speech that seems to scrape? Why?
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