• synonyms


[skey-th ing]
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  1. bitterly severe, as a remark: a scathing review of the play.
  2. harmful, injurious, or searing.
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Origin of scathing

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


verb (used with object), scathed, scath·ing.
  1. to attack with severe criticism.
  2. to hurt, harm, or injure, as by scorching.
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  1. hurt, harm, or injury.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scathing

harsh, trenchant, scorching, withering, searing, sarcastic, caustic, biting, mordant, brutal, burning, cruel, cutting, salty, scornful, severe, mordacious, sulphurous

Examples from the Web for scathing

Historical Examples of scathing

  • Scathing as some of the portraits are, the writer is by no means merely cynical.

    The Marriage of William Ashe

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • Scathing comments by Franklin on Thomas Penn's meanness, 138.

  • Scathing sentences already took shape in his brain, but deeper investigation would be necessary before he could write anything.

    We Two

    Edna Lyall

  • Scathing letters are all right, but they should be directed and stamped, then burned just before they are trusted to the mails.

British Dictionary definitions for scathing


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


verb (tr)
  1. rare to attack with severe criticism
  2. archaic, or dialect to injure
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  1. archaic, or dialect harm
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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.

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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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper