What's the difference between "harrowing" and "poignant"?
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I would say it's the difference between being being bitten by hundreds of ants (harrowing) and being stung by a scorpion (poignant). Compare the etymology of the two words:
So "harrowing" carries connotations of being more long-term, part of an ordeal, or how you might feel after being worked over by a rake (or a swarm of ants).
And "poignant" is sharper, more acute, possibly deeper. It's the feeling of sudden loss or unexpected injury (like a scorpion sting).
Odd question as these words are not often synonymous.
Briefly, harrowing means very distressing while poignant means emotionally moving or powerful. Poignancy is not necessarily negative.
In a nutshell,
"poignant" could be used in place of "harrowing", to indicate distress. However, the former can be used in several other situations, as illustrated below:
harrowing could mean:
poignant could mean: