The word "scold" as defined at http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/scold

to speak in an angry or critical way to (someone who has done something wrong)
- He scolded [=reprimanded] the children for making a mess.
- The article scolds [=(more formally) berates, upbraids] the United Nations for not doing enough about the situation.
- “You should never have done that,” she scolded.

Also, from the same website "criticize" is defined as

to express disapproval of (someone or something) : to talk about the problems or faults of (someone or something)
[+ object]
- His boss criticized him for his sloppy work habits.
- The judge was widely/roundly criticized for his verdict.
- The editor criticized the author's work as trite.

I think "scold" is used when you someone senior tells shouts angrily at you for something that is considered considered incorrect, indicating that the recipient is at fault. On the other hand "criticize" could be when anyone "finds fault" without what you have done or the way you do things. I tend to use these words in different situations.However, looking at meanings their synonyms berate, rebuke, censure, lambaste, there does not seem to be much of a difference,could those two words be considered same?

On the same note, could rebuke and censure be considered the same?

  • It’s buried in the definitions. “to scold” has “to someone” whereas “to criticize” can just be “of” or “about” someone.
    – Jim
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:22
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    Scolding is a rather dated, folksy term pretty much on a par with ticking / telling off (done by parents dealing with naughty children). It's not likely to be appropriate in a professional work context. Apr 12, 2016 at 15:24

1 Answer 1


Connotations for some of those words differ. Connotation is everything when considering which words are most synonymous.

You're right that to scold is to criticize or rebuke with more annoyance or even anger. -

To reprimand or criticize harshly and usually angrily; to find fault with or reprimand (a person) harshly; chide - AHDEL, Collins/TFD

Criticize itself doesn't carry a particular connotation of motive or emotion, just that of finding fault. Criticize can even mean merely to evaluate without necessarily finding fault.

To find fault with - AHDEL/TFD.

Censure connotes formality, as in a formal, public pronouncement of strong criticism, or one that may carry a penalty.

An official rebuke, as by a legislature of one of its members. - AHDEL

Rebuke carries no connotation of formality, and is more like scold, but focuses a bit more on the harsh/sharp nature of the criticism.

To criticize (someone) sharply; reprimand

If you want to learn about connotations, you need to look for them; just looking at a list of synonyms doesn't help much.

Look for a headword (usually bolded) in the synonyms, or preceded by "see usage notes at" (or something similar). This often involves, then, looking at several different entries for words that are listed as synonyms.

  • 4
    "Scold" mainly has a connotation of a parent telling off a child, so if used in, say, a workplace setting, it makes it sound like the scolder is treating the "scoldee" like a child, unlike "criticise" which isn't as loaded with extra meaning. Apr 12, 2016 at 14:34
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    You should cover the to someone nature of scold. I can criticize you while talking about you to someone else, but I can only scold you when I’m speaking to you.
    – Jim
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:34
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    @MaxWilliams - I agree, scold carries the connotation of treating someone like an inferior. Apr 12, 2016 at 14:35
  • @Jim good point Apr 12, 2016 at 14:42
  • 1
    I think scold also carries a connotation of personal defect. Apr 12, 2016 at 15:35

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