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scold (skōld)
v. scold·ed, scold·ing, scolds
To reprimand or criticize harshly and usually angrily.
To express harsh or angry disapproval to someone.
One who persistently nags or criticizes: "As a critic gets older, he or she usually grows more tetchy and ... may even become a big-league scold" (James Wolcott).

[Middle English scolden, to be abusive, from scolde, an abusive person, probably of Scandinavian origin; see sekw-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

scolder n.
scolding·ly adv.

Synonyms: scold, upbraid, berate, revile, vituperate, rail3
These verbs mean to reprimand or criticize angrily or vehemently. Scold implies reproof: parents who scolded their child for being rude. Upbraid generally suggests a well-founded reproach, as one leveled by an authority: upbraided by the supervisor for habitual tardiness. Berate suggests scolding or rebuking at length: "Sergeant Olds ... berated a candidate at the far end of the squad bay for having scuffs on his boots" (Nathaniel Fick).
Revile and vituperate especially stress the use of scornful or abusive language: "Hamilton was reviled in his time by Jeffersonian democrats as an evil genius in thrall to wealthy aristocracies" (Walter Isaacson). "The incensed priests ... continued to raise their voices, vituperating each other in bad Latin" (Sir Walter Scott).
Rail suggests bitter, harsh, or denunciatory language: "Conservatives had railed against the liberal interest groups that had attacked [him]" (Jane Mayer).

Word History: The Middle English verb scolden, the source of Modern English scold, is derived from the Middle English noun scold, which meant primarily "a person of ribald and abusive speech" and "a shrewish, chiding woman." Scold is probably of Scandinavian origin and akin to Old Icelandic skāld, "poet." Middle English scold could perhaps also be used to mean simply "a minstrel," but of that we are not sure. What is the link, then, between the more usual meanings of Middle English scold, such as "a person of abusive speech," and the meaning of the Old Icelandic skāld, "poet"? The relationship between the two words becomes clearer if we examine the senses of some Old Icelandic words derived from skāld. Old Icelandic skāldskapr, for example, meant "poetry" in a good sense but also "a libel in verse," while skāldstöng meant "a pole with imprecations or charms scratched on it." Satirical and scurrilous verses have formed a noted part of poets' productions in traditional societies throughout the ages. The prominence of the poet in the role of satirist and composer of curses explains how English scold, "one who persistently nags or criticizes" could be akin to Old Icelandic skāld, "poet." The original meaning of the Scandinavian source of Middle English scold may have been "poet, especially one who composes satirical verses," and after the word was borrowed into English, the poetry was forgotten and only the curses remained.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.