• synonyms


  1. a point or pointed part projecting backward from a main point, as of a fishhook or arrowhead.
  2. an obviously or openly unpleasant or carping remark.
  3. Botany, Zoology. a hooked or sharp bristle.
  4. Ornithology. one of the processes attached to the rachis of a feather.
  5. one of a breed of domestic pigeons, similar to the carriers or homers, having a short, broad bill.
  6. any of numerous, small, Old World cyprinid fishes of the genera Barbus and Puntius, often kept in aquariums.
  7. Usually barbs. Veterinary Pathology. a small protuberance under the tongue in horses and cattle, especially when inflamed and swollen.
  8. Also barbe. a linen covering for the throat and breast, formerly worn by women mourners and now only by some nuns.
  9. Obsolete. a beard.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to furnish with a barb or barbs.
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Origin of barb1

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


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for barbing

Historical Examples

  • Others have notches in them, somewhat similar to an attempt at barbing.

    Primitive Man

    Louis Figuier

  • Then, barbing it with a sting of his own making, he added: "But Gitanos, never!"

    The Wolf Cub

    Patrick Casey

  • The barbing and twisting together of the two longitudinal strand wires is done by automatic machinery.

  • The building is 800 feet in length, and is supplied with about 200 machines for twisting and barbing the wire.

  • Then followed a device for twisting and barbing, and the application of horse power.

British Dictionary definitions for barbing


  1. a subsidiary point facing in the opposite direction to the main point of a fish-hook, harpoon, arrow, etc, intended to make extraction difficult
  2. any of various pointed parts, as on barbed wire
  3. a cutting remark; gibe
  4. any of the numerous hairlike filaments that form the vane of a feather
  5. a beardlike growth in certain animals
  6. a hooked hair or projection on certain fruits
  7. any small cyprinid fish of the genus Barbus (or Puntius) and related genera, such as B. conchonius (rosy barb)
  8. (usually plural) any of the small fleshy protuberances beneath the tongue in horses and cattle
  9. 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
  10. obsolete a beard
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  1. (tr) to provide with a barb or barbs
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Derived Formsbarbed, adjective

Word Origin

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


  1. a breed of horse of North African origin, similar to the Arab but less spirited
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Word Origin

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


  1. Australian a black kelpieSee kelpie 1
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Word Origin

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


n acronym for (in Britain)
  1. Broadcasters' Audience Research Board
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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 barbing



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

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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.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

barbing in Science


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