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.

1250–1300; Middle English harsk; cognate with German harsch, Danish harsk rancid

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.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
harsh (hɑːʃ)
1.  rough or grating to the senses
2.  stern, severe, or cruel
3.  slang (tr) to cause (a state of elation) to be diminished or ended (esp in the phrases harsh someone's mellow and harsh someone's buzz)
[C16: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Middle Low German harsch, Norwegian harsk rancid]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

originally of texture, "hairy," 1533, probably from harske "rough, coarse, sour" (c.1300), a northern word of Scand. origin (cf. Dan. and Norw. harsk "rancid, rank"), related to M.L.G. harsch "rough, raw," probably from PIE base *qars- "to scrape, scratch, rub" (cf. Lith. karsiu "to comb," O.C.S. krasta,
Rus. korosta "to itch," L. carduus "thistle," Skt. kasati "rubs, scratches").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
He braved the harshest of conditions, threats of violence, and the intrigue
  that roiled the treasure hunting of his day.
Those who are successful at breastfeeding are often the ones who are the
  harshest critics of those who are unable to breastfeed.
People can spend days, even weeks, without fire in the harshest climates.
Those people who felt more powerful and more incompetent picked the harshest
  punishments, the study found.
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