[vi-tree-uh l]


Chemistry. any of certain metallic sulfates of glassy appearance, as copper sulfate or blue vitriol, iron sulfate or green vitriol, zinc sulfate or white vitriol, etc.
oil of vitriol; sulfuric acid.
something highly caustic or severe in effect, as criticism.

verb (used with object), vit·ri·oled, vit·ri·ol·ing or (especially British) vit·ri·olled, vit·ri·ol·ling.

to treat with or as with vitriol, especially sulfuric acid.

Origin of vitriol

1350–1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin vitriolum, vitreolum, equivalent to Latin vitre(us) vitreous + -olum, neuter of -olus -ole1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vitriol

Contemporary Examples of vitriol

Historical Examples of vitriol

  • In the Coupeau household the vitriol of l'Assommoir was also commencing its ravages.


    Emile Zola

  • But the cup of retribution is not to be measured by the cup of vitriol.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • Her despair was laced with vitriol and she avoided a kind word about anybody.

    Tristram of Blent

    Anthony Hope

  • Put 20 drops of weak acid of vitriol into water to be drank at meals.

    Zoonomia, Vol. II

    Erasmus Darwin

  • So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first medicine.

    Sons and Lovers

    David Herbert Lawrence

British Dictionary definitions for vitriol



another name for sulphuric acid
any one of a number of sulphate salts, such as ferrous sulphate (green vitriol), copper sulphate (blue vitriol), or zinc sulphate (white vitriol)
speech, writing, etc, displaying rancour, vituperation, or bitterness

verb -ols, -oling, -oled, -olling or -olled (tr)

to attack or injure with or as if with vitriol
to treat with vitriol

Word Origin for vitriol

C14: from Medieval Latin vitriolum, from Late Latin vitriolus glassy, from Latin vitrum glass, referring to the glossy appearance of the sulphates
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 vitriol

late 14c., "sulphate of iron," from Old French vitriol (13c.), from Medieval Latin vitriolum "vitriol," from neuter of vitriolus, from Late Latin vitreolus "of glass," from Latin vitreus "of glass, glassy," from vitrium "glass" (see vitreous). So called from its glassy appearance in certain states. Meaning "bitter or caustic feelings" first attested 1769, in reference to the corrosive properties of vitriol (when heated it produces sulfuric acid, formerly called oil of vitriol).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vitriol in Medicine


[vĭtrē-ōl′, -əl]


Any of various sulfates of metals, such as ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, or copper sulfate.
sulfuric acid
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

vitriol in Science


[vĭtrē-ōl′, -əl]

A former name for sulfuric acid.
Any of various sulfates of metals, such as ferrous sulfate (green vitriol), zinc sulfate, or copper sulfate (blue vitriol). See also blue vitriol.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.