General English


  • adjective unpleasant, inferior. An all-purpose negative, briefly a vogue term among Californian adolescents in the mid-1990s.
  • adjective good, impressive. In this reversed or ironic sense, recorded among British mods of the 1960s and US high-school and college students of the 1990s, the word is one of a large set of near-synonyms including savage, brutal, tough, etc., which have been adopted into adolescent codes.


  • used to describe a very astringent wine that has a high level of alcohol and excessive tannin. This type of wine will probably not improve with age.

Origin & History of “harsh”

Harsh originally meant ‘hairy’. Its ancestor, middle Low German harsch, was a derivative of the noun haer ‘hair’, and its exact English equivalent would have been hairish. By the time English acquired it, it had broadened out in meaning to ‘rough’, both literally and figuratively.