Vitriol Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

What is the meaning of vitriol? Where did it come from? You have questions and we have answers. Read on to get the scoop on the term vitriol.

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You may have heard someone use the word vitriol when describing something cruel or bitter, but what exactly does it mean? Not to worry — we’ll tell you.

This article explores the term vitriol to uncover its definition, origin, synonyms, and more. We’ll also go over a few example sentences to help you feel comfortable making this word of the day a part of your everyday vocabulary. 

What Is the Definition of Vitriol?

When looking to learn a new word, you may find it helpful to review several definitions instead of just one. With that in mind, we’ve gathered a few definitions from three different dictionaries for you to study below: 

  • According to the Cambridge Dictionary, vitriol can be defined as violent hate and anger expressed through severe criticism.  
  • The Collins Dictionary says if you refer to what someone says or writes as vitriol, you disapprove of it because it’s full of hate and bitterness. 
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines vitriol as cruel and bitter criticism when used as a noun. 

After reviewing the definitions listed above, we can conclude that the word vitriol is simply harsh, nasty criticism. In other words, it is abusive or venomous language that is used to express blame or bitter deep-seated ill will.

Does the Word Vitriol Mean Anything Else? 

Vitriol does have an additional meaning. When used in chemistry, vitriol is another name for sulphuric acid (“oil of vitriol”). 

Vitriol is the general chemical name encompassing a class of chemical compounds made up of sulfates derived from certain metals — originally, copper, zinc, or iron. These tiny mineral substances are distinguished by their color, such as:

  • Blue vitriol: cupric sulfate
  • Green vitriol: ferrous sulfate
  • White vitriol: zinc sulfate
  • Red vitriol: cobalt sulfate

What Is the Word Vitriol’s Origin?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, vitriol derives from the Middle English, Old French, and Medieval Latin vitriolum (meaning sulphuric acid). This word comes fromthe  Late Latin vitreolum, the neuter of vitreolus (meaning of glass) from the Latin vitreus or vitreous.

What Are the Synonyms of Vitriol?

An often overlooked tool in broadening one’s understanding of the English language is none other than synonyms and antonyms. 

While browsing through our trusted thesaurus, we can see that there is quite the spread of words that one can use in place of our word of the day — vitriol. 

Synonyms of vitriol include:

  • Nastiness
  • Disapproval
  • Censure
  • Condemnation
  • Sarcasm
  • Invective
  • Venom
  • Contempt
  • Disdain
  • Vituperation
  • Hatefulness
  • Hostility
  • Scathing
  • Malevolence
  • Maliciousness
  • Virulence
  • Acrimoniousness

What Are the Antonyms of Vitriol?

An antonym is just the term we use regarding a word or phrase with the opposite meaning to the original word. 

Like synonyms, antonyms are a delightful way of broadening our knowledge of the English language; both antonyms and synonyms are integral tools we can use in all forms of conversation to avoid repetition. 

Below you will find a brief list of antonyms provided in part by Power Thesaurus:

  • Admiration
  • Love
  • Respect
  • Agreeable
  • Calm
  • Kind
  • Mild
  • Nice
  • Pleasant
  • Sweet
  • Courtesy
  • Polite

Example Sentences With Vitriol

Now that you have made it this far, let’s put your knowledge to the test! Quiz yourself on our word of the day to see how many sentences you can come up with using vitriol. 

Worry not if you need a bit of assistance, as we have provided a few example sentences for your reference below: 

Bitter verbal abuse is a good example of the word vitriol.

The white vitriol is obtained as large crystals with a glassy appearance by evaporation.

You can’t barge into the manager’s office spewing vitriol, or you may get escorted off the premises.

The pure vitriol she hurled at members of the press knew no bounds.

Do you ever worry about the vitriol aimed at you from the opposing team’s fans?

My enemy sometimes writes vitriol about me on her social media page.

Such vitriol toughened Becca up for a career in boxing.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t put up with vitriol from anyone.

Did you know that oil of vitriol is an old name for concentrated sulfuric acid, which happens to be a soluble sulfate of a metal?

When I was hired by my current hiring manager, I had to sign a document stating that I would never post vitriol about the workplace on social media.

Other countries from around the world have had similar debates, but with far less vitriol.


So, what does vitriol mean, you ask?

Simply put, the word vitriol refers to caustic language or criticism. If you refer to what someone says as vitriol, you disapprove of it because it’s full of bitterness and hate.

In addition, vitriol can also be defined as any of several sulfates of metals, such as iron sulfate (green vitriol), copper sulfate (blue vitriol), and zinc sulfate (or white vitriol). 

Derived from Latin vitrum meaning glass, vitriol is primarily used today when referring to incisive criticism that cuts “like glass.”


  1. Vitriol synonyms Words and Phrases for Vitriol | Power Thesaurus
  2. Vitriol definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. VITRIOL : definition | The Cambridge English Dictionary
  4. VITRIOL English Definition and Meaning |
  5. What does vitriol mean? | Your Dictionary