I'm looking for the word for the sort of bitterness and exasperation as excellently exhibited by Eric Birling of J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls:

  • When Eric works out that Sheila has informed their mother of his alcoholism behind his back:

    Eric: You told her! Why, you little sneak.

  • When Eric finds out that his mother has inadvertently instructed the Inspector that he should be punished severely:

    Eric: You haven’t made it any easier for me, have you, mother?

The word "sardonic" comes to mind, but this doesn't quite describe it; he's not making a wry comment to mock somebody or as an attempt at humour. He's frustrated to angry in both examples.

What word can I use to describe this? (Bonus points if it has a noun, adjective and adverb form.)

  • a sample sentence or two please
    – lbf
    Apr 25, 2018 at 18:58
  • @lbf I'm finding it hard to think of any that aren't just rehashes of what I've got written there already (or really any way of describing the word I'm looking for other than by example). Is the point of a sample sentence to work out the grammar of the intended word?
    – wizzwizz4
    Apr 25, 2018 at 18:59
  • anger, betrayal.
    – KarlG
    Apr 25, 2018 at 19:39
  • @KarlG Sort of, but "betrayal" isn't describing the emotional state.
    – wizzwizz4
    Apr 25, 2018 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


thesaurus.com provides a number of good alternatives for "sardonic", and I like caustic or acerbic as adjectives to describe these remarks.

The remarks are said with the intention to cause pain by use of sharp humour.

Caustic (from Collins):

  1. (Chemistry) capable of burning or corroding by chemical action: caustic soda.
  2. sarcastic; cutting: a caustic reply.
  3. (General Physics) of, relating to, or denoting light that is reflected or refracted by a curved surface

Acerbic (also Collins

harsh, bitter, or astringent; sour

I’m not clear on whether you want an adjective for the emotion felt by Eric or a word to describe his statements, but "acerbic" might fit both. He’s feeling disappointed and betrayed and is using sarcasm as defence.


vexation TFD

adjective exasperated

  1. The condition of being vexed; annoyance: frowned in vexation, source of irritation or annoyance:
  • This is sort of what I want; thanks! It's sort of a mixture between bitter and exasperated.
    – wizzwizz4
    Apr 25, 2018 at 19:05
  • "Exasperated" is in the title of the question already...? Was it edited?
    – Pam
    Apr 25, 2018 at 20:12
  • edited in new word
    – lbf
    Apr 25, 2018 at 20:51

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