pungent (adj.)

1590s, "sharp and painful, poignant, piercing," originally figurative, of pain or grief, from Latin pungentem (nominative pungens), present participle of pungere "to prick, pierce, sting," figuratively, "to vex, grieve, trouble, afflict" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). For sense development, compare piquant; sharp (adj.).

Meaning "having powerful odor or taste, sharply affecting the sense of smell" is recorded by 1660s; in reference to writing, etc., "sharply affecting the mind, curt and expressive" is by 1850. The literal sense of "sharp, pointed" (c. 1600) is very rare in English and mostly limited to botany.

Middle English and early Modern English also had a now-obsolete verb punge "to prick, pierce; to smart, cause to sting," from Latin pungere. Related: Pungently.

updated on February 04, 2021