Callous – Definition, Meaning & Use In A Sentence

01.03.24 Definitions Time to read: 3min

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Grasping the precise definitions of terms is essential in academic writing to ensure accurate communication of ideas. In scholarly contexts, where technical definitions abound, misunderstandings can arise from an incomplete grasp of a term’s true meaning. This article provides a detailed exploration of the etymology, definition, and appropriate usage of the word “callous,” aiming to enhance clarity and precision in its application within academic discourse.

Definition of “callous”

“Callous” can be used as an adjective and has two primary meanings: one descriptive of a physical condition and the other of a personality trait or attitude.

The physical description of “callous” (which can also be written as “callus”) means having an area of skin that has become thickened and hard, typically from friction, pressure, or exposure. This usage is often applied to hands or feet that have developed thick skin from manual labor, walking, or other repetitive actions.

“Callous” as a personality trait means showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard for others; emotionally hardened. When used in this sense, it describes someone who is unfeeling, unsympathetic, or indifferent to the suffering or feelings of others.

Use of “callous” in a sentence as a personality trait

When used in the English language, the word “callous” primarily serves as an adjective that describes a personality trait. The following examples show how to use this term in a sentence.


  • His callous remarks about the homeless situation showed a lack of empathy.
  • After years in the harsh environment of politics, she became callous to criticism.
  • His callous jokes at the expense of others often left the room in uncomfortable silence.

Use of “callous” in a sentence as a physical description

When used in the English language, the word “callous” serves as an adjective that describes a physical condition.  The following examples show how to use this word in a sentence.


  • The dancer’s callous feet were evidence of her dedication and hard work.
  • Years of manual labor left his hands rough and callous.
  • The climber’s hands developed callous areas, making it easier to grip the rocks.

How to spell “callous” correctly

The term “callous” in its physical description sense comes from the Latin word “callus,” meaning “hard skin.” The adoption of “callous” into Middle English retained this physical sense, describing skin that had become hardened and less sensitive.

The figurative use of “callous” to describe a person’s lack of empathy or sensitivity evolved from the physical description of hardened skin. The metaphorical leap to describing someone as emotionally hardened or insensitive likely draws on the visual qualities of physical calluses—areas desensitized through exposure or stress.

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If you’re unsure about the correct spelling of “callous,” think of “callus” as a rough patch of skin. Add an “o” for offensive, and you get “callous,” meaning “insensitive to someone’s feelings.”

Synonyms for “callous”

Using synonyms of “callous” can help diversify language, improve communication clarity, prevent repetition and redundancy, customize language for different audiences or situations, and enhance stylistic diversity in writing. The following sentences contain four alternative words for “callous” as a personality trait along with examples.

Synonyms Examples
Apathetic The CEO made a callous decision to cut jobs without remorse.
The CEO made an apathetic decision to cut jobs without remorse.
Insensitive His callous jokes about the disaster were in poor taste.
His insensitive jokes about the disaster were in poor taste.
Harsh His callous comment on her loss left everyone shocked.
His harsh comment on her loss left everyone shocked.
Inhuman Amid the crisis, their leader's callous attitude sparked outrage.
Amid the crisis, their leader's inhuman attitude sparked outrage.


“Callus” is a noun referring to hard skin, whereas “callous” is an adjective that describes someone’s skin being hard, or in a metaphorical sense, someone being emotionally hard or insensitive.

It means that someone has no regard for the emotions and feelings of others.

As a verb, “callous” means “to make hard” or “to become hard.” It refers to the process of becoming indifferent to emotions, pain or suffering.

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