Meaning of SOUR in English

I. ˈsau̇(ə)r, ˈsau̇ə, esp in the South ˈsau̇wə(r adjective

( -er/-est )

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English sūr; akin to Old High German sūr sour, Old Norse sūrr sour, Lithuanian suras salty, Old Slavic syrŭ moist, raw

1. : causing or characterized by the one of the four basic taste sensations produced chiefly by acids

sour pickles

sour green apples for pies

— compare bitter , salt , sweet



(1) : having the acid taste or smell of or as if of fermentation : rancid , turned

sour beer

sour milk

the smell of wet clothing is sour — Norman Mailer

(2) : of or relating to fermentation

the sour process for manufacturing starch

b. : smelling or tasting of decay : putrid , rotten

sour breath

a dense drift of dead nettles — their sour odor haunting the air — Walter de la Mare


(1) : proving unsound or unpopular : bad , wrong

private lending institutions unloaded their sour investments on the Treasury — Harrison Smith

— usually used with go or turn

not enough people rented them and the project went sour — Reporter

a proposal which quickly turned sour even in the Republican camp — Economist

(2) : robbed of illusion : disenchanted

halfway through the book … went sour on Marxism — Alfred Kazin


a. : of a disagreeable kind : unpleasant , distasteful

find it easier if they … do not have to hear too often too much of the sour truth — Walter Lippmann

a sour job, like washing up the dishes after a party — George Weller

that's a sour harbor in a sou'east gale — Mary H. Vorse

b. : of a cross or sullen nature : dour , morose

a sour disgruntled man of small position — Margaret Mead

take a sour view of recent contributions of nuclear physics to human progress — J.B.Priestley

c. : expressive of ill humor or dissatisfaction : peevish

made a sour grimace — L.C.Douglas

d. : taking a hostile attitude : down — used with on

unions are sour on the new merger, and may … form a new group — Kiplinger Washington Letter


a. : acid in reaction and usually needing drainage as well as liming — used of soil

b. dialect Britain : disagreeable in texture or taste : harsh , rank — used of grass

5. archaic : inclement , miserable — used of weather

sour gusts of wind and rain — Archibald Lovell


a. : containing malodorous sulfur compounds (as hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans) — used especially of natural gas, petroleum, and petroleum distillates; compare doctor test

b. : inaccurate or inferior in quality : jarring , poor

must hear the sour note and correct it — C.W.Pearce

his … drives were often wild, his putting sour — Time


acid , acidulous , tart , dry : sour is often interchangeable with acid but in addition is applied to that which through fermentation has lost its sweet or neutral taste; it may or may not suggest rancidness

sour wine

sour bread

acid applies to that which has a biting taste in its natural or normal state

acid fruits

acidulous implies a degree of acidity

mineral waters pleasantly acidulous

while tart indicates a sharp but often an agreeable acidity

cooks prefer tart apples for pies

dry applies to wines that are bland without being sweet. In more figurative senses, sour applies to the peevish or morose; acidulous and tart to asperity, pungency, or sharpness; acid to the biting or caustic

a sour man was Andrew Bogue that day, and sourer was he now. Nor word nor syllable would he utter — William Black

she's none too well pleased about it. A discarded woman never is; she always turns sour on you — Max Peacock

the acidulous tongue … had impaired working relationships with his British, Chinese, and American colleagues — John Fischer

tart temper never mellows with age — Washington Irving

his wit became acid; his letters are filled with caustic comment to sharpen the temper of those on the fighting line — V.L.Parrington

dry may suggest matter-of-fact impersonal presentation of the humorous, sarcastic, or ironic

into these tiny paragraphs he packed his dry wit and his easy, good-natured satire on the follies of the day — Eleanor M. Sickles

a story by Maupassant, dry and ironical in its beginning — V.S.Pritchett

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from sour (I)



(1) : something acidulous

film yeasts may develop on … pickles, including sours and dills — Crops in Peace & War

(2) : the primary taste sensation produced by acid stimuli

b. : something unpleasant or distasteful

take the good with the bad, the sweet with the sour

2. : an acid or acidic compound (as sodium fluosilicate) used in dilute water solution especially in bleaching or laundering to neutralize alkali and decompose any remaining bleach or soap — compare gray sour 2, white sour

3. : a cocktail made with spirituous liquor, lemon or lime juice, sugar, and sometimes also soda water, shaken in ice and strained, and often served garnished with a maraschino cherry and slice of orange

whisky sour

gin sour

III. adverb

( -er/-est )

Etymology: Middle English, from sour (I)

: sourly

IV. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English souren, from sour (I)

intransitive verb


a. : to become sour : ferment , rot

made a start of yeast in that keg … by letting some dough sour in it — W.F.Harris

there is no need for carpets to sour from cleaning — Boxoffice

b. : to become acid or unproductive — used of soil


a. : to become peevish or morose

a laughing girl, but she soured early and took to other ways — A.E.Coppard

b. : to lose interest : become disillusioned or fed up

prospective investors soured when they found the company would pocket most of the proceeds

— usually used with on

voters can sour on a man who runs too many times for the same office — J.A.Morris b.1904

c. : to become impaired : go bad : deteriorate

could … feel his grief souring into jealousy and resentment — Elizabeth Enright

relations with his neighbors suddenly soured over the situation

transitive verb


a. : to cause to ferment

yeast is used to sour the wort for beer

b. : to cause to spoil or become acidulous

tainted vessels sour what they contain — Philip Francis

c. : to make sour

some grasses sour land


a. : to cause to deteriorate : make distasteful : impair

career was soured by inability to get along with … his colleagues — Lynn Montross

a taste of Africa during two hunting trips … soured him for city life — Newsweek


(1) : to make cross or gloomy : disgruntle , irritate

everything in the galley had gone adrift and soured the cook — Llewellyn Howland

(2) : to destroy the faith or enthusiasm of : disappoint , disillusion

refused to intervene … this soured many European idealists — Janet Flanner

— usually used with on

soured me on wealth, made me suspicious of the whole system — W.A.White

c. obsolete : to give a sour expression to

souring his cheeks — Shakespeare

3. : to treat with a dilute acid solution especially in bleaching, dyeing, and laundering

4. : to macerate (lime) for plaster or mortar

Synonyms: see exacerbate

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.