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[hahrsh] /hɑrʃ/
ungentle and unpleasant in action or effect:
harsh treatment; harsh manners.
grim or unpleasantly severe; stern; cruel; austere:
a harsh life; a harsh master.
physically uncomfortable; desolate; stark:
a harsh land.
unpleasant to the ear; grating; strident:
a harsh voice; a harsh sound.
unpleasantly rough, ragged, or coarse to the touch:
a harsh surface.
jarring to the eye or to the esthetic sense; unrefined; crude; raw:
harsh colors.
unpleasant to the taste or sense of smell; bitter; acrid:
a harsh flavor; a harsh odor.
Origin of harsh
1250-1300; Middle English harsk; cognate with German harsch, Danish harsk rancid
Related forms
harshly, adverb
harshness, noun
overharsh, adjective
overharshly, adverb
overharshness, noun
unharsh, adjective
unharshly, adverb
2. brusque, hard, unfeeling, unkind, brutal, acrimonious, bad-tempered. See stern1 . 3. rough. 4. discordant, dissonant, unharmonious. 6. unesthetic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for harsh
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Poetry, too; harsh and grim poetry, often, but the real thing.

  • Then she cried because, she had said so harsh a thing, and begged that Phoebe would not expose it.

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • Over her harsh, positive features fell a sort of transforming veil.

    The Book of Susan Lee Wilson Dodd
  • I offer it because I would not have you think me harsh, or suppose that passion has made me unjust.

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • But the poor creature looked miserable and unhappy, and I could not be harsh toward her.

    The Doctor's Dilemma Hesba Stretton
British Dictionary definitions for harsh


rough or grating to the senses
stern, severe, or cruel
(transitive) (slang) to cause (a state of elation) to be diminished or ended (esp in the phrases harsh someone's mellow and harsh someone's buzz)
Derived Forms
harshly, adverb
harshness, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Middle Low German harsch, Norwegian harsk rancid
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for harsh

originally of texture, "hairy," 1530s, probably from harske "rough, coarse, sour" (c.1300), a northern word of Scandinavian origin (cf. Danish and Norwegian harsk "rancid, rank"), related to Middle Low German harsch "rough, raw," German harst "a rake;" perhaps from PIE root *kars- "to scrape, scratch, rub, card" (cf. Lithuanian karsiu "to comb," Old Church Slavonic krasta, Russian korosta "to itch," Latin carduus "thistle," Sanskrit kasati "rubs, scratches"). Meaning "offensive to feelings" is from 1570s; "disagreeable, rude" from 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for harsh



To nag and complain; nudge (1990s+ Teenagers)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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