1570s, from French acerbité, from Latin acerbitatem (nominative acerbitas) "harshness, sharpness, bitterness, sourness," literal and figurative (as in virus acerbitatis "the poison of malice"), from acerbus "bitter to taste, sharp, sour, tart," from Proto-Italic *akro-po- "sharp" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce"). Earliest use in English is figurative, of "sharp and bitter" persons. Of tastes, from 1610s. Latin acerbus is related to acer "sharp" as superbus "haughty" to super "above."
updated on October 13, 2021