sharp tongue: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘sharp tongue’ mean?

A *sharp tongue* refers to someone who speaks in a critical, sarcastic or hurtful way. It implies that the person uses harsh and cutting words in their speech.

Idiom Explorer


Idiom: Sharp Tongue

The idiom "sharp tongue" is commonly used in the English language to describe someone who is known for their ability to speak in a clever, critical, or cutting manner. It represents a person who possesses a sharp, cutting, or critical way of expressing themselves verbally.

The origin of this idiom is unclear; however, idioms similar in concept have been found in writings dating back to ancient civilizations. For instance, a proverb from the Bible, written around 1000 B.C.E., states "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." This suggests that the power of words to harm or heal has long been recognized and emphasized.

In modern usage, the idiom "sharp tongue" can be used to describe individuals who often engage in sharp, witty banter, sarcastic remarks, or quick comebacks. It implies a person's ability to confidently express themselves in a biting or pointed manner, often leaving their listeners with a sense of shock or discomfort.

It is important to note that having a sharp tongue is not inherently positive or negative. The phrase can be used to describe both the skillful use of language to convey ideas effectively, as well as the negative act of using language to hurt or belittle others. The interpretation of the idiom relies heavily on the context and the intent behind the speaker's words.

The idiom "sharp tongue" refers to someone who possesses the ability to communicate in a clever, critical, or cutting manner. While the exact origins of the idiom are unknown, it dates back to ancient times, highlighting the enduring significance of the power of speech. Whether seen as a positive or negative trait, the idiom captures the impact and potential consequences of words. The idiom evokes a sense of complexity, reminding us of both the potential harm and effectiveness of verbal communication.

She has a sharp tongue.

Idiom: wicked tongue

The idiom "wicked tongue" is closely related to the concept of a sharp tongue. It refers to someone who not only possesses the ability to speak in a clever, critical, or cutting manner but also uses this skill in a way that is malicious or harmful. The term "wicked" adds an element of negativity and implies that the person's words are intentionally hurtful or deceptive.

Individuals with a wicked tongue often engage in verbal attacks, insults, or gossip. They may take pleasure in causing emotional distress or damaging someone's reputation through their words. This can create a toxic environment and strain relationships, as their words are intended to harm rather than build up or express legitimate concerns.

It is important to recognize that engaging in wicked tongue behavior is not a productive or healthy way of communication. While a sharp tongue may be seen as a skill or a way of expressing oneself effectively, a wicked tongue takes it to a harmful extreme. It is essential to consider the impact of our words on others and strive for constructive and respectful communication.

Idiom: forked tongue

The idiom "forked tongue" is yet another idiom related to the concept of a sharp tongue. It refers to someone who not only possesses the ability to speak in a clever, critical, or cutting manner but also uses this skill in a way that is deceptive or dishonest. The term "forked" alludes to the image of a snake's forked tongue, which is often associated with deception or trickery.

Individuals with a forked tongue use language to manipulate or mislead others. They may say one thing but mean another, making it difficult to trust their words. Their intentions may be hidden behind a mask of charm or falseness, causing confusion and uncertainty among those who interact with them.

Engaging with someone who has a forked tongue can be challenging, as their words cannot be taken at face value. It requires careful listening, critical thinking, and skepticism to discern their true meaning or intentions. It is important to be cautious and discerning when interpreting the words of someone with a forked tongue.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *sharp tongue* can be used in a sentence:

  1. She has a sharp tongue and always criticizes others.
  2. His sharp tongue can be hurtful, but he doesn't mean any harm.
  3. Watch out for her sharp tongue, she can be quite sarcastic.

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