verbscold·ed, scold·ing, scolds
To reprimand or criticize harshly and usually angrily.
To express harsh or angry disapproval to someone.
One who persistently nags or criticizes: “As a critic gets older, he or she usually grows more tetchy and … may even become a big-league scold” ( James Wolcott )
Origin of scold
Middle English scolden to be abusive from scolde an abusive person probably of Scandinavian origin
; see sekw-3
in Indo-European roots.
Related Forms: Word History:
The Middle English verb scolden,
the source of Modern English scold,
is derived from the Middle English noun scold,
which meant primarily “a person of ribald and abusive speech” and “a shrewish, chiding woman.” Scold
is probably of Scandinavian origin and akin to Old Icelandic skāld,
“poet.” Middle English scold
could perhaps also be used to mean simply “a minstrel,” but of that we are not sure. What is the link, then, between the more usual meanings of Middle English scold,
such as “a person of abusive speech,” and the meaning of the Old Icelandic skāld,
“poet”? The relationship between the two words becomes clearer if we examine the senses of some Old Icelandic words derived from skāld.
Old Icelandic skāldskapr,
for example, meant “poetry” in a good sense but also “a libel in verse,” while skāldstöng
meant “a pole with imprecations or charms scratched on it.” Satirical and scurrilous verses have formed a noted part of poets' productions in traditional societies throughout the ages. The prominence of the poet in the role of satirist and composer of curses explains how English scold,
“one who persistently nags or criticizes” could be akin to Old Icelandic skāld,
“poet.” The original meaning of the Scandinavian source of Middle English scold
may have been “poet, especially one who composes satirical verses,” and after the word was borrowed into English, the poetry was forgotten and only the curses remained.