having barbs.
calculated to wound; cutting: a professor noted for his barbed criticisms.

Origin of barbed

First recorded in 1520–30; barb1 + -ed3




a point or pointed part projecting backward from a main point, as of a fishhook or arrowhead.
an obviously or openly unpleasant or carping remark.
Botany, Zoology. a hooked or sharp bristle.
Ornithology. one of the processes attached to the rachis of a feather.
one of a breed of domestic pigeons, similar to the carriers or homers, having a short, broad bill.
any of numerous, small, Old World cyprinid fishes of the genera Barbus and Puntius, often kept in aquariums.
Usually barbs. Veterinary Pathology. a small protuberance under the tongue in horses and cattle, especially when inflamed and swollen.
Also barbe. a linen covering for the throat and breast, formerly worn by women mourners and now only by some nuns.
Obsolete. a beard.

verb (used with object)

to furnish with a barb or barbs.

Origin of barb

1300–50; Middle English barbe < Middle FrenchLatin barba beard or beardlike projection

Synonyms for barb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for barbed

biting, pointed, piercing, wounding, hurtful, sharp

Examples from the Web for barbed

Contemporary Examples of barbed

Historical Examples of barbed

  • The injustice of it was like a barbed and poisoned arrow in his heart.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • Why should you put up all this barbed wire between yourself and your friends?

    The Market-Place

    Harold Frederic

  • Lines of trenches and coils of barbed wire arrest your attention.

  • Where is that armor of distrust in which you were to resist the barbed arrow of the enchantress?

    One Of Them

    Charles James Lever

  • That same book,—how it rankled, like a barbed arrow, in his side!

    Tony Butler

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for barbed




a subsidiary point facing in the opposite direction to the main point of a fish-hook, harpoon, arrow, etc, intended to make extraction difficult
any of various pointed parts, as on barbed wire
a cutting remark; gibe
any of the numerous hairlike filaments that form the vane of a feather
a beardlike growth in certain animals
a hooked hair or projection on certain fruits
any small cyprinid fish of the genus Barbus (or Puntius) and related genera, such as B. conchonius (rosy barb)
(usually plural) any of the small fleshy protuberances beneath the tongue in horses and cattle
a white linen cloth forming part of a headdress extending from the chin to the upper chest, originally worn by women in the Middle Ages, now worn by nuns of some orders
obsolete a beard


(tr) to provide with a barb or barbs
Derived Formsbarbed, adjective

Word Origin for barb

C14: from Old French barbe beard, point, from Latin barba beard




a breed of horse of North African origin, similar to the Arab but less spirited

Word Origin for barb

C17: from French barbe, from Italian barbero a Barbary (horse)




Australian a black kelpieSee kelpie 1

Word Origin for barb

C19: named after one that was named Barb after a winning racehorse


n acronym for (in Britain)

Broadcasters' Audience Research Board
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

Word Origin and History for barbed



late 15c., "to clip, mow;" see barb (n.). Meaning "to fit or furnish with barbs" is from 1610s. Related: Barbed; barbing.



late 14c., "barb of an arrow," from Old French barbe (11c.) "beard, beardlike appendage," from Latin barba "beard," perhaps cognate with Old English beard (see beard (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

barbed in Science



A sharp point projecting backward, as on the stinger of a bee.
One of the hairlike branches on the shaft of a feather.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.