originally of texture, "hairy," 1530s, probably from Middle English harske "rough, coarse, sour" (c. 1300), a northern word of Scandinavian origin (compare Danish and Norwegian harsk "rancid, rank"), related to Middle Low German harsch "rough, raw," German harst "a rake;" perhaps from PIE root *kars- "to scrape, scratch, rub, card" (source also of Lithuanian karšiu, karšti "to comb," Old Church Slavonic krasta, Russian korosta "to itch," Latin carduus "thistle," Sanskrit kasati "rubs, scratches"). Meaning "offensive to feelings" is from 1570s; that of "disagreeable, rude" from 1610s.
1580s, "sound harshly," from harsh (adj.). Meaning "make harsh, subject to harshness" is by 1991. Related: Harshed; harshing. Harshen is attested from 1821.
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