55 Synonyms for “Criticize”

By Mark Nichol

One of life’s great pleasures is the opportunity to criticize others, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the verb criticize has a rich repository of synonyms that offers so many options for expressing your low opinions of people or their words or deeds.

I’ve divided the list below into four general categories. Generally, only the first features words with distinct connotations, which I’ve included; the others are fairly interchangeable within each category, and even across categories.

Words Expressing Disapproval

1. Admonish: to give gentle, earnest advice
2. Censure: to condemn with formal disciplinary action
3. Chasten: to discipline or restrain
4. Chastise: to communicate severe disappointment
5. Chide: to offer mild constructive criticism
6. Condemn: to criticize wrongdoing
7. Decry: to communicate strong disapproval
8. Denounce: to target someone for disapproval, usually publicly
9. Dispraise: to publicly criticize
10. Excoriate: to indicate scathing disapproval
11. Fault: to blame
12. Fulminate: to publicly criticize
13. Lambaste: to attack verbally
14. Reprehend: to voice criticism
15. Reproach: to communicate disappointment
16. Upbraid: to offer severe criticism
17. Vituperate: to abusively criticize

Words Expressing Disparagement

18. Belittle
19. Cry down
20. Denigrate
21. Depreciate
22. Derogate
23. Knock
24. Poor-mouth
25. Run down
26. Talk down
27. Vilipend

Words Expressing Severe Criticism

28. Bad-mouth
29. Castigate
30. Flay
31. Hammer
32. Lace (into)
33. Lay (into)
34. Pan (especially to criticize a performance or a proposal)
35. Slag

Words Expressing Reprimand or Scolding

36. Bawl out
37. Berate
38. Call down (another meaning is “to invite or entreat”)
39. Chew out
40. Dress down
41. Harangue
42. Jaw
43. Keelhaul
44. Lecture
45. Rag
46. Rail (against)
47. Rant
48. Rate
49. Ream (or ream out)
50. Rebuke
51. Reprove
52. Score
53. Tongue-lash

54-55. Two additional words used only in their noun form are commination (“denunciation”) and objurgation (“a harsh rebuke”).

Many other words such as assail and scathe can be suitable depending on the context but have senses closer to “attack” than “criticize.”

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4 Responses to “55 Synonyms for “Criticize””

  • thebluebird11

    Just going to stick my tailfeathers in here and give my take on some of these, maybe nuances. I could certainly be wrong; I admit I didn’t look them up myself or delve deeply into word origins, so these are more my own way of using them. I welcome any…uh, criticism…

    Admonish: Seems more like something you’d direct at a child, or as if you were talking to a child (visually akin to wagging your finger at someone).
    Chasten: Seems like criticism aimed to bring someone back to being “chaste,” so this word seems as if you might use it to criticize someone’s poor moral choices. For this one, I get the visual of the person walking away with his tail between his legs.
    Chide: Seems to also include some form of teasing (if playfully intended) or derision (if not). Visually might include a sneer?
    Decry: Seems to carry an element of outrage.
    Lambaste: Seems to imply a very thorough criticism, from one end to the other, everything from A to Z, maybe pre-A to post-Z as well, including things not even relevant to the issue. As one writer put it so well, “everything from the Big Bang to Kingdom Come.” Also, with some vehemence/passion implied, perhaps even undertones of some personal vendetta.

    Vilipend? Cool word! Never heard it, will have to check it out.
    Also, to “bad-mouth” somebody seems more like gossip, meaning that what is said might or might not be true, and probably occurs behind someone’s back. And, you forgot “talk s#!+” LOL (goes with “bad-mouth”).

    Thanks for a nice list…good refresher!

  • opsimath

    An excellent collection of ‘criticism’ words – thank you. The only exception I can think of is ‘animadvert’, although I sometimes wonder if anyone has actually used it!

    A great site, with always something new – one of the best.

    Thanks again.

  • Michael Wasserman

    I think you meant “deprecate,” rather than “depreciate”. “Depreciate” is merely lowering in value or esteem (derived from pretium, price, whereas “deprecate” is a vigorous or earnest expression of disapproval (derived from de + precari, to be prayed (against)).

    @opsimath: “Animadvert” is very 17th century.

  • Stephen Thorn

    Under “Reprimand or Scolding,” you might also have included “call on the carpet” in your comprehensive and well-researched list. I’m sure there are other possibilities, such as “tear (tore) him a new (bodily oriface not discussed in polite company)” that might not be appropriate for the list because of their content or regionalism, but you did a good job, Mark.

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