Piercing means loud or intense, like the piercing scream of the heroine in a horror movie or the piercing cold of the wind on a frigid February morning.

The adjective piercing comes from pierce, which means to poke a hole in something with a sharp object. If you've had your ears pierced, you get the idea. Things that are piercing are figuratively sharp, like a piercing look from an angry teacher, the piercing cold of the ocean, or the piercing sound of your smoke detector. There's also a shrewdness or intelligence that can be described as piercing: "The piercing insight in your book report was impressive."

Definitions of piercing

adj painful as if caused by a sharp instrument

piercing cold”
piercing criticism”
cutting, keen, knifelike, lancinate, lancinating, stabbing
keenly and painfully felt; as if caused by a sharp edge or point

adj having or emitting a high-pitched and sharp tone or tones

sharp, shrill
high, high-pitched
used of sounds and voices; high in pitch or frequency

adj having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions

acute, discriminating, incisive, keen, knifelike, penetrating, penetrative, sharp
having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment

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