AskDefine | Define caustic

Dictionary Definition

caustic adj
1 harsh or corrosive in tone; "an acerbic tone piercing otherwise flowery prose"; "a barrage of acid comments"; "her acrid remarks make her many enemies"; "bitter words"; "blistering criticism"; "caustic jokes about political assassination, talk-show hosts and medical ethics"; "a sulfurous denunciation" [syn: acerb, acerbic, acid, acrid, bitter, blistering, sulfurous, sulphurous, venomous, virulent, vitriolic]
2 of a substance, especially a strong acid; capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action [syn: corrosive, erosive, vitriolic] n : any chemical substance that burns or destroys living tissue

User Contributed Dictionary



From the Greek καυστός, burnt, via the Latin causticus, burning.



  1. Capable of burning, corroding or destroying organic tissue
  2. In the context of "of language etc": sharp, bitter, cutting, biting, sarcastic



  • 1843: "How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
  • 1843: 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 — Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit
  • 1853: Madame Beck esteemed me learned and blue; Miss Fanshawe, caustic, ironic, and cynical — Charlotte Bronte, Villette
  • 1857: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. — Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
  • 1886: this set of worthies, who were only too prone to shut up their emotions with caustic words. — Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • 1930s???: 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 — W.H.Auden, 'The Quest'


capable of destroying organic tissue
severe; satirical; sharp


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

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

Caustic may refer to:
caustic in German: Kaustik
caustic in Spanish: Cáustico
caustic in Portuguese: Cáustico

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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