[skey-th ing]


bitterly severe, as a remark: a scathing review of the play.
harmful, injurious, or searing.

Origin of scathing

First recorded in 1785–95; scathe + -ing2
Related formsscath·ing·ly, adverb



verb (used with object), scathed, scath·ing.

to attack with severe criticism.
to hurt, harm, or injure, as by scorching.


hurt, harm, or injury.

Origin of scathe

before 1000; (noun) Middle English scath(e), scade, schath(e) < Old Norse skathi damage, harm, cognate with Old English sc(e)atha malefactor, injury (with which the Middle English forms with sch- might be identified); (v.) Middle English scath(e), skath(e) < Old Norse skatha, cognate with Old English sceathian
Related formsscathe·less, adjectivescathe·less·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scathing

Historical Examples of scathing

British Dictionary definitions for scathing



harshly critical; scornfula scathing remark
damaging; painful
Derived Formsscathingly, adverb


verb (tr)

rare to attack with severe criticism
archaic, or dialect to injure


archaic, or dialect harm
Derived Formsscatheless, adjective

Word Origin for scathe

Old English sceatha; related to Old Norse skathi, Old Saxon scatho
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 scathing

1794 in literal sense, present participle adjective from scathe (v.). Of words, speech, etc., from 1852. Related: Scathingly.



c.1200, from Old Norse skaða "to hurt, harm, damage, injure," from Proto-Germanic *skath- (cf. Old English sceaþian "to hurt, injure," Old Saxon skathon, Old Frisian skethia, Middle Dutch scaden, Dutch schaden, Old High German scadon, German schaden, Gothic scaþjan "to injure, damage"), from PIE root *sket- "to injure." Only cognate outside Germanic seems to be in Greek a-skethes "unharmed, unscathed."

It survives mostly in its negative form, unscathed, and in figurative meaning "sear with invective or satire" (1852, usually as scathing) which developed from the sense of "scar, scorch" used by Milton in "Paradise Lost" i.613 (1667).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper