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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.