Criticism Words (And When to Use Them)


Sometimes you encounter things worth criticizing. That’s when you need some biting criticism words to help you make a difference.

Incisive language creates change. Finding the right words convinces listeners of your point of view. It goads people into changing their behavior. Criticism words can change the world.

We’ve assembled a list of criticism words with definitions and examples. Add your favorites to your vocabulary. Then start fighting injustice, providing clearer feedback, and saying what you really mean.


adj. AS·i·nine: very stupid and silly

Hiring clowns to do your taxes is an asinine suggestion.


adj. a·TRO·cious: very evil or cruel

The Hague denounced the dictator’s atrocious imprisonment and torture of rival candidates.


adj. del·e·TER·i·ous: damaging or harmful

Flouting environmental protection standards is deleterious to wildlife.


adj. de·TEST·a·ble: causing or deserving strong dislike

Melony’s team gasped at her detestable impersonation of their disabled coworker.


adj. det·ri·MEN·tal: causing damage or injury

Student loan debt proved detrimental to Hwan’s post-graduation plans.


adj. DU·bi·ous: causing doubt, uncertainty, or suspicion

John’s claim of innocence seemed dubious in light of such the strong evidence against him.


adj. ig·no·MIN·i·ous: causing disgrace or shame

Such acts of ignominious bigotry leave bystanders embarrassed and ashamed.


n. in·CEN·di·ary: a person who excites factions, quarrels, or sedition

The incendiary used his influence to incite disagreements between people who used to get along with each other.


adj. in·TRAN·si·gent: completely unwilling to change

Juanita’s opinion was so intransigent that even the most reasoned arguments couldn’t sway her.


n. mar·i·o·NETTE: a puppet that is moved by pulling strings or wires that are attached to its body

The new leader was actually a marionette who did the bidding of corrupt officials behind the scenes.


adj. mi·so·gy·NIS·tic: feeling or expressing a hatred for women

Donny’s misogynistic comments about the women he worked with were obscene enough to get him fired for sexual harassment.


adj. op·PRO·bri·ous: deserving of very strong disapproval or criticism especially by a large number of people

Millions used social media to condemn the celebrity’s opprobrious remarks.


adj. PAL·try: very small or too small in amount; also: having little meaning, importance, or worth

Truman’s paltry contributions to charity surprised more generous philanthropists everywhere.


adj. PROF·li·gate: carelessly and foolishly wasting money, materials, etc.

The construction project’s profligate developers spent more than three times the expected cost.


adj. rep·re·HEN·si·ble: deserving very strong criticism

Rhonda urged her followers to condemn the governor’s reprehensible conduct.


adj. REP·ro·bate: morally corrupt

Religious leaders condemned the star’s reprobate overtures towards married women.


adj. re·PUG·nant: causing a strong feeling of dislike or disgust

Shaunee informed the restaurant manager that the food she sent back to the kitchen had tasted repugnant.


adj. TAW·dry: having a cheap and ugly appearance; also: morally low or bad

The mayor’s tawdry, thrift-store sweater was a metaphor for his tawdry campaign of mudslinging.


adj. ten·DEN·tious: strongly favoring a particular point of view in a way that may cause argument

The tendentious remarks took reasonable positions to the extreme, causing raucous arguments among people who would otherwise not have cared about the topic.


adj. VE·nal: willing to do dishonest things in return for money

The venal stock broker was never charged with bribery, even though his corruption was common knowledge on Wall Street.


adj. xe·no·PHO·bic: being unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin

Racial prejudices can leave people afraid of other cultures, which can lead to all kinds of xenophobic opinions and policies.

What are your favorite criticism words?

Tweet us your favorite #criticismwords. Who deserves to hear them?



Definitions from Merriam-Webster

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