I was just thinking about someone I went to school with who had a penchant for putting people down, and I was trying to think of a word that describes this, but couldn’t find it. It would be a synonym of caustic, abrasive, discouraging, and undermining, but these all have slightly different connotations (to wear away", cause discouragement or to make fall). I want an adjective that has the connotation of a hammer hitting you on the head. The word does not necessarily need to describe someone who does this on purpose, out of evil intent. Is there such a word?

The word should give you a mental picture of someone barraging you with negative comments, but it not necessarily affecting you. Think of someone who so often has something negative to “contribute” that many can just either ignore it or roll their eyes at it, and that is the extent of its effect. I keep getting the mental picture of the word buffet as in, how waves buffet the shore. A constant hitting, without the hitting necessarily being devastating in its destruction.

  • 1
    "Demeaning" would be one. I am not aware of any that specifically invoke an image of hammering though. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 19:10
  • If it's not intentional, you could use "depressing".
    – TylerH
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:40
  • @TylerH, yeah it's along those lines, but "depressing" has the connotation of "making sad", and is more of a constant pressure.. as opposed to a constant striking.
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 21:12
  • 4
    "adjective that means “someone who puts people down”" Euthanizer.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 21:15
  • haha.. couldn't help but laugh at that one.
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 21:18

9 Answers 9


Here are some more...

critical: expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments; marked by a tendency to find and call attention to errors and flaws.

Why Are Some People So Critical? - Harvard Business Review

negative (not encouraging or approving or pleasing) people are often wearisome to be around:

negative people are more likely to focus on and bring up the flaws in situations, or talk about things they dislike. - succeedsocially.com/negative

captious (apt to make trivial criticisms; fault-finding; carping) is a good word, connoting that it doesn't let up (the root word is the same as for capture). (carping: characterized by or inclined to petty or fussy faultfinding.)

...Shakespeare meant to say that the person [his editor] spoken to was so captious that he would let nothing pass, like a sieve of too close a fabric or texture.
...And to that end we wish'd your lordship here, T'avoid the censures of the carping world. - Shakespeare, King Richard III

  • 1
    Whoa, I think "captious" and "carping" are exactly what I was looking for. I will give others a chance to see if someone can find a better one. I like the phonetic feel of "scornful", but "captious" and "carping" are the best choices in terms of their definition.
    – insaner
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 3:47
  • What about one word (adjective) to describe someone who makes others feel guilty?
    – bonCodigo
    Commented Jan 23, 2016 at 13:59

Consider belittling

  • to consider or speak of (something) as less valuable or important than it really is; disparage

  • to cause to make small; dwarf

Other possibilities are

  • deprecating
  • disparaging
  • denigrating
  • derogating


There are also

  • contumelious
  • vituperative
  • invective
  • vitriolic

However, each of these conveys at least a bit of abusive tone.

  • "Disparaging" might be the closest word to what I am looking for so far. "Belittling" doesn't really work because you can technically belittle someone with underhanded compliments. I am looking for a word that gives you the mental picture of someone hitting you over the head with negative words and comments, if such a word exists.
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 17:24
  • 1
    @insaner jerk maybe?
    – Cruncher
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:01
  • 1
    "Belittling" does seem likely to be the closest. Its the only one I can think of that alludes to making someone smaller. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 19:13
  • @cruncher, well, he was definitely a jerk for sure, but I think there has to be a word that is more precise to what kind of jerk he was (and probably still is).
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:21
  • @RBarryYoung, yeah, that's indeed the problem with "belittling", that it refers to making someone "little", it describes also the effect, to some extent. However, with what this guy was doing it was more like a hammering to the top of the head, but it didn't necessarily affect those who were its recipients. The word will probably have some reference to the aggressive nature of the comments. I keep thinking of the word "buffet" in all this, like how waves buffet the shore.
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:22

Condescending might cover it. But you can put people down in many different ways, ranging from the crude to the subtle. You can be put down by someone of no particular education or achievements who does nothing more than laugh at your accent, or make remarks about your weight, or some other perceived defect. Such a person might be called derisive or scornful. But people who are, or who think they are, more talented or knowledgeable than you in some area where you would like to excel might be called condescending or superior or patronising. Putting people down comes in many different flavours. You have to pick the word to fit the person.

  • "Scornful" and "derisive" definitely have the right flavor to them. I think we are getting closer.
    – insaner
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:26

disparaging would be the one:

disparaging dɪˈsparɪdʒɪŋ/Submit adjective 1. expressing the opinion that something is of little worth; derogatory. "disparaging remarks about council houses"


I've found another option:


"raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily"

adjective form: "cavilling"



It is a verb that can be used as an adjective (a chiding response . . .).




I think the answer is in your question. The dude is just a huge downer.

You can also say he is a drag to be around.

If he is always saying bad things he is a killjoy too.

In the 60s-90s that person might be referred to as a party-pooper.

Now I would just say step back, hater!

There are just a ton of words to describe this guy because there are so many depressing people.


Hopeless, used sarcastically, as in "This guy is a hopeless case" [=nobody can do anything to help or change him).

You might also want to consider all other adjectives -- taken figuratively -- that denote an irreversible/unalterable condition, such as:



Unreclaimable or Irreclaimable

Unremediable or uncurable

Unretrievable or irretrievable

Or, if you want to put the stress on the guy's constant depressing/oppressing attitude, you might want to use any of such adjectives as:

  • Not sure why someone voted you down, I +1'ed you to right that wrong.
    – insaner
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 7:11
  • The question did not ask for words to put someone down.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 0:44


Such as a parent who criticises and shames their child (a toxic parent), or an employer who blames their employees for their own failures (a toxic employer).

Really, any person who is constantly critical and just generally sucks the oxygen out of people. I've also heard the term "emotional vampire" which might apply.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.