Definition of harsh in English:


Syllabification: harsh
Pronunciation: /härSH


  • 2Cruel or severe: a time of harsh military discipline
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    • They were strict, cruel, harsh and made you feel guilty very easily.
    • As far as he was concerned, it was society that was cruel, harsh and utterly ruthless to children who were alone and orphaned.
    • Robbins's disciplinarianism won him a reputation as a harsh and cruel taskmaster.
    cruel, savage, barbarous, despotic, dictatorial, tyrannical, tyrannous; ruthless, merciless, pitiless, relentless, unmerciful; severe, strict, intolerant, illiberal, iron-fisted; hard-hearted, heartless, unkind, inhuman, inhumanesevere, stringent, draconian, firm, stiff, hard, stern, rigorous, grim, uncompromising; punitive, cruel, brutalaustere, grim, spartan, hard, comfortless, inhospitable, stark, bleak, desolate
  • 2.1(Of a climate or conditions) difficult to survive in; hostile: the harsh environment of the desert
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    • The Chinese character refers to a kind of plant that can survive in harsh conditions and it also sounds the same as ‘difficult’ in Chinese.
    • It has proven to be fully adaptable to its habitat, well-suited to survive in harsh climates with their tough hide and wily brain.
    • Bulbs have evolved to survive in harsh climates, to withstand winter cold, or summer drought, or both.
    hard, severe, cold, bitter, bleak, freezing, icy; arctic, polar, Siberian
  • 2.2(Of reality or a fact) grim and unpalatable: the harsh realities of the world news
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    • There's nothing like leaving familiar surroundings and then returning for helping you to cope with this harsh fact of reality: no one is indispensable.
    • He offers sensible advice and protects the younger men from the harsh realities of the grim fate that lies ahead.
    • On this occasion it is his aides who are getting a lesson in the harsh realities of the medium is the message.
  • 2.3Having an undesirably strong effect: she finds soap too harsh and drying
    More example sentences
    • Others feel borak, and other forms of alcohol, may have a harsh effect on their stomachs, and find that their tendency to fall straight off to sleep after half a glass is a bit inconvenient.
    • Evaporation is faster (and accompanied by a slower loss of strength) in a dry cellar, resulting in an undesirably harsh style of brandy.
    • Sometimes I can feel the pool emptying, drying up under a harsh sun.
    abrasive, strong, caustic; coarse, rough



More example sentences
  • ‘Caution,’ the robot said, its voice harshened by static.
  • In his effort to capture her countenance, he worked the face too hard, the pencil revolving from an oval to sharper lines that harshened her face.
  • Sitting in a creaking chair opposite him was Esmeril, his tired face harshened by the deep shadows that covered it.


More example sentences
  • Certainly it paints an often harshly satirical picture of the Way We Live Now in this part of the world.
  • They are claiming unfair dismissal, arguing that they were treated much more harshly than her.
  • I do criticise them very harshly, they have really done nothing for the rural community.


More example sentences
  • A multitude of factors can be used to explain the barbaric harshness of Pol Pot's regime.
  • Whatever the case, lies enable us to smooth over the cold, brutal harshness of reality.
  • Wood is rare enough as a young intellectual interested in religion, but as a critic he has also built a reputation for the harshness of his judgments.


Middle English: from Middle Low German harsch 'rough', literally 'hairy', from haer 'hair'.

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