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a point or pointed part projecting backward from a main point, as of a fishhook or arrowhead.
an obviously or openly unpleasant or carping remark.
Botany, Zoology. a hooked or sharp bristle.
Ornithology. one of the processes attached to the rachis of a feather.
one of a breed of domestic pigeons, similar to the carriers or homers, having a short, broad bill.
any of numerous, small, Old World cyprinid fishes of the genera Barbus and Puntius, often kept in aquariums.
Usually, barbs. Veterinary Pathology. a small protuberance under the tongue in horses and cattle, especially when inflamed and swollen.
Also, barbe. a linen covering for the throat and breast, formerly worn by women mourners and now only by some nuns.
Obsolete. a beard.
to furnish with a barb or barbs.
one of a breed of horses raised originally in Barbary.
Contemporary Examples

Even on the events (all too rare) when Jackson or Lopez (never Tyler) venture into criticism, the barbs barely break the flesh.
The American Idol Implosion Richard Rushfield April 11, 2011

We bring you the best of the barbs, the bloopers, and yes, the story about the dentures.
8 Top Moments from the Health-Care Summit The Daily Beast Video February 24, 2010

Rather than trying to craft your own Bisset barbs, you can just impress your friends with these Twitter zingers.
Hollywood’s Morning After: Emma Watson’s Pants and More Amy Zimmerman January 12, 2014

Tyson gave his roast in the form of iconic poetry, drawing on The Iliad, Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson to deliver his barbs.
7 Outrageous Moments from Charlie Sheen’s Roast September 19, 2011

We bring you the best of the barbs, the bloopers and yes, the story about the dentures.
8 Top Moments from the Health-Care Summit The Daily Beast Video February 24, 2010

Historical Examples

Ananta’s gaze was innocent as he resumed the barbs of yesterday’s conversation.
Autobiography of a YOGI Paramhansa Yogananda

Then it seemed as if the barbs had caught in its clothing and held it there.
Good Indian B. M. Bower

Afterward the Cave-men fished with harpoons which had barbs on only one side.
The Later Cave-Men Katharine Elizabeth Dopp

With hooks, barbs, and glands they cling to the covering of animals.
Seed Dispersal William J. Beal

But they differ in that their barbs spring from a central axis as in typical contour feathers.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 10, Slice 2 Various

a subsidiary point facing in the opposite direction to the main point of a fish-hook, harpoon, arrow, etc, intended to make extraction difficult
any of various pointed parts, as on barbed wire
a cutting remark; gibe
any of the numerous hairlike filaments that form the vane of a feather
a beardlike growth in certain animals
a hooked hair or projection on certain fruits
any small cyprinid fish of the genus Barbus (or Puntius) and related genera, such as B. conchonius (rosy barb)
(usually pl) any of the small fleshy protuberances beneath the tongue in horses and cattle
a white linen cloth forming part of a headdress extending from the chin to the upper chest, originally worn by women in the Middle Ages, now worn by nuns of some orders
(obsolete) a beard
(transitive) to provide with a barb or barbs
a breed of horse of North African origin, similar to the Arab but less spirited
(Austral) a black kelpie See kelpie1
noun acronym (in Britain)
Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board

late 14c., “barb of an arrow,” from Old French barbe (11c.) “beard, beardlike appendage,” from Latin barba “beard,” perhaps cognate with Old English beard (see beard (n.)).

late 15c., “to clip, mow;” see barb (n.). Meaning “to fit or furnish with barbs” is from 1610s. Related: Barbed; barbing.

A sharp point projecting backward, as on the stinger of a bee.

One of the hairlike branches on the shaft of a feather.


Barbiturates (late 1950s+)


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  • Barbu

    a threadfin, Polydactylus virginicus, inhabiting western Atlantic coastal waters. Historical Examples But really, barbu, it was only right that you should live in comfort, for none knew better than you how to appreciate it! Six Women and the Invasion Gabrielle Yerta barbu and Crafleux piqued themselves on their gentlemanly manners. Six Women and the Invasion […]

  • Barbuda

    one of the NE Leeward Islands, in the E West Indies: part of Antigua and Barbuda. 62 sq. mi. (161 sq. km). Contemporary Examples They are currently in Antigua Barbuda, the last country the couple will visit before returning to the United Kingdom. Edward Who? Tom Sykes March 6, 2012 Historical Examples Having ascertained that […]

  • Barbule

    a small barb. any of the small processes fringing the barbs of a feather. noun a very small barb (ornithol) any of the minute hairs that project from a barb and in some feathers interlock by hooks and grooves, forming a flat vane barbule (bär’byl) A small barb or pointed projection, especially one that fringes […]

  • Barbusse

    Henri [ahn-ree] /ɑ̃ˈri/ (Show IPA), 1873?–1935, French journalist and author. Historical Examples Save in the last chapter, wherein Barbusse expounds his ideas on social questions, we do not make the author’s acquaintance. The Forerunners Romain Rolland Barbusse’s story is that of a single squad, almost entirely composed of workers and peasants. The Forerunners Romain Rolland […]

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