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Callous: What Does It Mean?

Updated on September 23, 2022Grammar
  • Callous is an adjective that means hardened, having calluses, insensitive, or showing no emotions.
  • Callous can also be a verb that means to harden, to make callous.
  • A callus is a thickening of the skin. It can also be used as a verb that means to develop a callus.

The things we suffer for beauty. Let’s say you saw a pair of shoes that looked great but weren’t too comfortable, and you still decided to buy them. Or, let’s say you spend a lot of time in the gym lifting weights or doing other exercises that involve using your hands. After a while, you’ll notice the skin on your feet or hands is thickening, and the area right around it is starting to hurt. What has happened there is that your skin has hardened as protection against the added wear and tear. Your skin has become callous.

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Callous definition

One of the ways to define the adjective callous is “hardened.” If it’s the hardening of the skin, callous means having calluses.

The other meaning of the adjective callous also has to do with hardening, only, this time it’s used in a figurative sense to mean emotional hardening. If you describe someone as callous, you are saying that they are insensitive, that they show no emotions, or that they disregard the suffering of others.

Finally, callous can also be a verb. If you say that something will callous with time, you are saying that it will become harder, or that it will develop calluses.

Callous vs. callus

A callus is a part of the skin that’s thickened. Manual laborers usually develop calluses on their hands. Guitar players develop calluses on their fingertips. Everyone can develop calluses on their heels.

If you said that a callus is a callous part of the skin, you would be correct. However, the two words are not interchangeable. Nevertheless, they can cause a lot of confusion because they are spelled similarly and pronounced the same—[kal-uss].

Examples of callous in a sentence

But the Nauru files are damning, and they are damning because they are the words of the detention system itself, the regime’s own bureaucracy revealing its casual, callous brutality.

—The Guardian

Two callous dog owners who almost starved a Rottweiler to death through months of horrific neglect have been jailed.

—The Daily Mirror

Rick Stoddard’s hands are red and full of callous skin, peeling off in small pieces.

—Ottawa Sun

Some fishermen with hard, calloused hands have found that they don’t tend to feel the stings of the Lion’s Mane.


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