One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A sharp projection near the end of an arrow, fish hook, or similar object, which is angled away from the main point so as to make extraction difficult.
spike, prong, point, projection, spur, thorn, needle, prickle, spine, quill, bristle, tineView synonyms
- ‘When Betty Bee sets her stinger deep into your skin she forgets she has a barb attached to her stinger that prevents her from pulling it out of her victim.’
- ‘Nearly all of the plant life protects itself with thorns, barbs and needles.’
- ‘As he reached the lip at the top of the shaft he was suddenly hit with three sharp barbs that embedded themselves in the servo of his right shoulder joint.’
- ‘The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man by surgery, which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.’
- ‘With its stems covered by sharp barbs, stinging nettle is not a very friendly looking herb, but when it comes to fighting aging it can be a worthwhile ally.’
- ‘Now, you can touch this - not real hard - he doesn't have barbs in his quills like a porcupine.’
- ‘Once they penetrate the flesh, the barbs make it difficult to pull them out.’
- ‘While the barbs and arrows surely hurt, the empire marches on.’
- ‘The head, neck, and rump are protected by quills, the tips of which are covered with backwards projecting barbs which make their removal painful and difficult.’
- ‘Sharp metal barbs clustered around one tip of the arrow.’
- ‘Try squashing the barbs on two of the three points to ease removal.’
- ‘And from its tip protruded a barb that dripped poison.’
- ‘When this type of spear stuck into a shield it would sink in up to the barbs, bend, and make it very difficult to remove.’
- ‘The device - which is called Rapex - is made of latex and attaches to the penis by shafts of sharp barbs.’
- ‘His two swords were golden, and shaped like two dragons fangs, with many sharp barbs along its side.’
- ‘The arrow had barely gone in, half the barb still sticking out.’
- ‘A sticker is a small seed with spiny barbs that stick to anything that passes.’
- ‘It was a simple hunting arrow, without a particularly sharp edge or barbs that would make it harder to remove.’
- ‘Her eyes glazed in a pained gaze, and it tore at my soul like thousands of barbs.’
- ‘The physician should advance the fishhook to disengage the barb, then pull and twist it so that the point enters the lumen of the needle.’
- 1.1 A cluster of spikes on barbed wire.
- ‘The barbed wire is, er, a piece of rusty barbed wire about 120 mm long - with one barb.’
- ‘The creeping mist coiled its tendrils round the spiky barbs like grasping fingers.’
- ‘The devices fire two barbs attached to a wire that deliver a 50,000-volt shock on contact for up to five seconds.’
- 1.2 A deliberately hurtful remark.‘his barb hurt more than she cared to admit’
insult, sneer, jibe, cut, cutting remark, shaft, affront, slap in the face, slight, rebuff, brickbat, slur, scoff, jeer, tauntView synonyms
- ‘After exchanging barbs via the media before they even met, Montoya and his new teammate, Ralf Schumacher, got along quite well once they started working together.’
- ‘‘You only did it because the Americans were not there,’ was the cutting barb tossed in his direction as he signed an autograph within days of returning from Moscow.’
- ‘Officers in uniform are often put before the massed media to bear the brunt of their barbs - and, of course, to reinforce the anti-military prejudice.’
- ‘Taunts that players receive when they're involved in road games may be brutal, but they don't inflict as much hurt as the barbs tossed at them by fans in their home park.’
- ‘While I don't know about crowd numbers, I do expect a deluge of sarcastic barbs from the blogosphere.’
- ‘Although Ferguson spoke with only a semi-serious tone, there was a barb within his remarks, as is often the case with jokes.’
- ‘George Bush and John Kerry are happy to trade barbs about draft dodging and flip-flopping.’
- ‘This lyrical work also contained hidden barbs.’
- ‘The nature of the comedy is worthy of further comment since modern American audiences will not ‘get’ a lot of the cultural references made or recognize the targets of the satiric barbs.’
- ‘In a 2001 article in New York magazine about feuding couples, one dueling duo, Dave and Brooke, traded barbs about her wireless addictions.’
- ‘Finally, she decided that keeping them apart wasn't doing much good, and decided to let them trade verbal barbs (although if it went to fisticuffs, she hoped they both knocked each other out).’
- ‘‘I don't have the energy to trade barbs with you, Sandra,’ Sam told her tiredly.’
- ‘When it comes to health care, Klein seems to have a suit of armour that protects him from the critics' barbs.’
- ‘We know she's no good, but the two trade enough saucy barbs to pique our interest, and both actors flash enough flesh to push the boundaries of the PG - 13 rating.’
- ‘Of course, partisan barbs were flying in short order.’
- ‘The story is clever and very risqué for its time, dealing with serious themes of sex, fidelity, and jealousy with trademarked barbs and one-liners.’
- ‘Everyone in that room expected me to reply to his hurtful comments with barbs of my own but I sat there quietly, fuming inside yet refusing to stoop to his level.’
- ‘The artists have been trading barbs ever since Moby criticized Eminem's lyrics about women and gays and Eminem called Moby a girl.’
- ‘Smith, who was clearly pumped-up for the match, denied his team had taken part in any ‘sledging’ before the Test despite widespread coverage of verbal barbs between the two sides.’
- ‘Oft-named ‘The Clark Kent of the Guitar’, in recent times he's been the subject of a few barbs that he's lost the fire in his playing; that he's settled into a comfortable mid-Western Americana.’
2A fleshy filament at the mouth of some fish, such as barbel and catfish.
- ‘The hybrids were good looking fish but careful examination of the mouths would show tell-tale signs of small barbs and their top fins were more carp-shaped.’
- 2.1 Each of the fine hairlike filaments growing from the shaft of a feather, forming the vane.
- ‘Feathers, however bizarre or morphologically complex, consist essentially of a rachis, barbs, and barbules.’
- ‘The bristle and eyelash consist of a rachis void of barbs, except at the innermost base.’
- ‘If you look at a feather under a microscope, you see the main stem, with barbs coming out to the left and right, and from these you have left-and right-handed barbules.’
- ‘Filoplumes have a rachis, with barbs and barbules somewhere along them, and they arise from follicles.’
- ‘The feather was identified as eagle from its size, color, and the coarse texture of the pennaceous barbs.’
3A freshwater fish with barbels around the mouth, popular in aquaria.
Barbus and other genera, family Cyprinidae: numerous species
- ‘These species include the giant barb (a type of carp), the giant freshwater stingray, and the river catfish.’
- ‘Many Indian species like catfish, dwarf and giant gourami, and barbs are popular abroad and fetch good prices.’
- ‘Like East Africa's other Great Lakes, Lake Victoria was also colonized by other types of river fish, such as barbs and catfish.’
- ‘In addition to the giant catfish, the project focuses on other endangered species, such as the giant barb, the national fish of Cambodia, and the seven-striped barb.’
Middle English (denoting a piece of linen worn over or under the chin by nuns): from Old French barbe, from Latin barba ‘beard’.
A small horse of a hardy breed originally from North Africa.
- ‘Spahis rode hardy little barb stallions, which they controlled with severe bits.’
- ‘The Rancho riding herd is usually 27 horses, mainly Spanish barbs and mixes of that breed.’
- ‘She lets all her barbs hang like that; verging on the rhetorical.’
Mid 17th century: from French barbe, from Italian barbero ‘of Barbary’.
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