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
  1. adjective
    painful as if caused by a sharp instrument
    piercing cold”
    piercing criticism”
    synonyms: cutting, keen, knifelike, lancinate, lancinating, stabbing
    keenly and painfully felt; as if caused by a sharp edge or point
  2. adjective
    having or emitting a high-pitched and sharp tone or tones
    synonyms: sharp, shrill
    high, high-pitched
    used of sounds and voices; high in pitch or frequency
  3. adjective
    having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions
    synonyms: acute, discriminating, incisive, keen, knifelike, penetrating, penetrative, sharp
    having the ability to perceive or understand; keen in discernment
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week