See also: Barb and Barb.



  • IPA(key): /bɑː(ɹ)b/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɑː(ɹ)b

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English barbe, from Middle French barbe, from Old French barbe (beard, beard-like element).


barb (plural barbs)

  1. The point that stands backward in an arrow, fishhook, etc., to prevent it from being easily extracted. Hence: Anything which stands out with a sharp point obliquely or crosswise to something else.
  2. (figurative) A hurtful or disparaging remark.
  3. A beard, or that which resembles it, or grows in the place of it.
  4. Armor for a horse, corrupted from bard.
    • 1786, Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 29:
      The defensive armor with the horses of the ancient knights ... These are frequently, though improperly, stiled barbs.
  5. (ornithology) One of the side branches of a feather, which collectively constitute the vane.
  6. (ichthyology) Any of various species of freshwater carp-like fish that have barbels and belong to the cyprinid family.
  7. (US) Menticirrhus americanus (Carolina whiting, king whiting, southern kingcroaker, and southern kingfish), found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States.
  8. (botany) A hair or bristle ending in a double hook.
  9. A blackish or dun variety of the pigeon, originally brought from Barbary.
  10. (obsolete) A muffler, worn by nuns and mourners.
  11. Paps, or little projections, of the mucous membrane, which mark the opening of the submaxillary glands under the tongue in horses and cattle. The name is mostly applied when the barbs are inflamed and swollen. [Written also barbel and barble.]
  12. (obsolete) A bit for a horse.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
  13. A plastic fastener, shaped roughly like a capital I (with serifs), used to attach socks etc. to their packaging.


barb (third-person singular simple present barbs, present participle barbing, simple past and past participle barbed)

  1. To furnish with barbs, or with that which will hold or hurt like barbs, as an arrow, fishhook, spear, etc.
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 6, lines 544-6, [1]
      [] for this day will pour down, / If I conjecture aught, no drizzling shower, / But rattling storm of arrows barbed with fire.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. Indeed, a nail filed sharp is not of much avail as an arrowhead; you must have it barbed, and that was a little beyond our skill.
    • 1944, Emily Carr, The House of All Sorts, "Meg the Worker," [2]
      Her coat was a tangled mass, barbed with last year's burs, matted disgustingly with cow dung.
  2. To cover a horse in armor, corrupted from bard.
    • 1592, William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, Scene I, line 10:
      And now, in stead of mounting barbed steeds / To fright the souls of fearful adversaries, / He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber [].
  3. (Nigeria) To cut (hair).
  4. (obsolete) To shave or dress the beard of.
  5. (obsolete) To clip; to mow.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Marston to this entry?)

Etymology 2Edit

Clipping of Barbary.


barb (plural barbs)

  1. The Barbary horse, a superior breed introduced from Barbary into Spain by the Moors.
    • 1813, Lord Byron, The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale, 8th edition, London: Printed by Thomas Davison, [], for John Murray, [], OCLC 813693480, lines 699–700, page 34:
      Why sends not the Bridegroom his promised gift, / Is his heart more cold, or his barb less swift?
    • 2009 October, Laurent Roustan, “The Horse, Present since the Dawn of Time”, in Alphatrad Internationale, transl., Au Royaume du Cheval: Les Haras Nationaux du Maroc [In the Kingdom of the Horse: The National Studs of Morocco], Souyri, Aveyron, France: Editions Au fil du Temps, →ISBN:
      However, in the last few years, the stud farms in Morocco and elsewhere in the world have rediscovered the qualities of the barb, which, in Berber tradition, remains the king of the "fantasias", a festival that is also becoming fashionable once again.
  2. A blackish or dun variety of pigeon, originally brought from Barbary.

Etymology 3Edit

Clipping of barbiturate.


barb (plural barbs)

  1. (informal, pharmacology) A barbiturate.
    • 1998, Jerry Dorsman, How to Quit Drugs for Good: A Complete Self-Help Guide, New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, →ISBN, page 50:
      The benzos, it turns out, are just as highly addicting as the barbs, but they do have a much lower potential to cause death by overdose. [] The barbs became one of the most widely abused classes of drugs in the 1960s and 1970s.

See alsoEdit




barb m (plural barbs)

  1. barbel



(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


barb (plural barbey, comparative barbey)

  1. sharp, drastic
  2. cruel, rough

Derived termsEdit


barb m (genitive singular [please provide], plural [please provide])

  1. sharp point, javelin


Manx mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
barb varb marb
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.