Etymology
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piercing (adj.)

early 15c., percing, in reference to cold, sound, light, a gaze, etc., present-participle adjective from pierce (v.). Figuratively, of the effect on the mind or emotions of pain, grief, etc., "sharp, keen, intense," from late 14c. Related: Piercingly.

piercing (n.)

late 14c., "act of penetrating with a point;" c. 1400, "a perforation, a hole," verbal noun from pierce (v.).

updated on June 08, 2020

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Definitions of piercing from WordNet

piercing (adj.)
having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions;
Synonyms: acute / discriminating / incisive / keen / knifelike / penetrating / penetrative / sharp
piercing (adj.)
painful as if caused by a sharp instrument;
piercing knifelike pains
piercing cold
piercing criticism
Synonyms: cutting / keen / knifelike / stabbing / lancinate / lancinating
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.