Vitriol is harsh, nasty criticism. You may have deserved some blame when the cake didn't rise, but the head chef's stream of vitriol was unnecessary.

Back in the day, vitriol was the name for sulfuric acid, which burns through just about anything. So think of vitriol as language so mean-spirited and bitter that it could eat through metal: "As a divorce lawyer, you were familiar with vitriol, but nothing prepared you for the time you wore a Red Sox cap at Yankee Stadium."

Definitions of vitriol

n abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will

invective, vituperation
Type of:
abuse, contumely, insult, revilement, vilification
a rude expression intended to offend or hurt

n (H2SO4) a highly corrosive acid made from sulfur dioxide; widely used in the chemical industry

oil of vitriol, sulfuric acid, sulphuric acid
battery acid, electrolyte acid
dilute sulfuric acid used in storage batteries
Type of:
any of various water-soluble compounds having a sour taste and capable of turning litmus red and reacting with a base to form a salt

v subject to bitter verbal abuse

Type of:
assail, assault, attack, lash out, round, snipe
attack in speech or writing

v expose to the effects of vitriol or injure with vitriol

Type of:
cause to experience or suffer or make liable or vulnerable to

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