A callous person is insensitive or emotionally hardened. If you laugh at your little sister while she's trying to show you her poetry, you're being callous.

Callous comes from the Latin root callum for hard skin. If you walk barefoot a lot, your feet will become calloused. We often use callous, as an adjective or a verb, in the metaphorical sense for emotionally hardened. If someone is unmoved by other people's problems, you might say he shows a callous indifference to human suffering or that his heart has been calloused by his own problems.

Definitions of callous
  1. adjective
    emotionally hardened
    “a callous indifference to suffering”
    synonyms: indurate, pachydermatous
    deficient in human sensibility; not mentally or morally sensitive
  2. adjective
    having calluses; having skin made tough and thick through wear
    calloused skin”
    “with a workman's callous hands”
    synonyms: calloused, callused, thickened
    tough, toughened
    physically toughened
  3. noun
    an area of skin that is thick or hard from continual pressure or friction (as the sole of the foot)
    synonyms: callosity, callus
    see moresee less
    clavus, corn
    a hard thickening of the skin (especially on the top or sides of the toes) caused by the pressure of ill-fitting shoes
    type of:
    abnormal hardening or thickening of tissue
  4. verb
    make insensitive or callous; deaden feelings or morals
    synonyms: cauterise, cauterize
    see moresee less
    type of:
    harden, indurate, inure
    cause to accept or become hardened to; habituate
Commonly confused words

callus / callous

These words sound the same, but they're not. A callus is a rough patch of skin. Add an o for "offensive" and you get callous, an adjective meaning "insensitive to the feelings of others."

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