harsh / härsh/ • adj. 1. unpleasantly rough or jarring to the senses: drenched in a harsh white neon light harsh guttural shouts.2. cruel or severe: a time of harsh military discipline. ∎ (of a climate or conditions) difficult to survive in; hostile: the harsh environment of the desert. ∎ (of reality or a fact) grim and unpalatable: the harsh realities of the world news. ∎ having an undesirably strong effect: she finds soap too harsh and drying.DERIVATIVES: harsh·en / -shən/ v.harsh·ly adv.harsh·ness n.