Man yelling at woman, illustrating the vocabulary word "berate"
What do you mean you ate all the ice cream?


What does “berate” mean?

Part of Speech: verb

Pronunciations: IPA: /bə.ˈrɛɪt/ Glossary-style: [buh-RAYT]

Definition: criticize, reprimand, or scold, especially angrily and for longer than usual (Ex: berate someone for selfish, thoughtless behavior).

Example: Every morning during rush hour in cities all over the world, drivers berate other drivers from the safe anonymity of their automobiles.

Discussion: “berate” is a fairly strong word, and it was a bit challening for me to come up with a friendly example that didn’t involve scolding children, students, empolyees, etc. So, in the example above, I described a phenomenon that most drivers have experienced, that of feeling anger while driving because another driver has committed some wrong, broken a traffic law, or taken a risk that puts others at risk. For example, most of us don’t like it when we get cut off by others in traffic, especially when we’re in a rush, right? So many people “vent” their anger in their cars by yelling, shaking their fists, and the like. But quite often, these people would not do the same thing were they not protected by their cars.

In a word, berating refers to expressing one’s anger in a rather hostile way. More colloquially, at least in the United States, we may talk about lecturing people or ranting. For example, “Every time I get an A?, my mother lectures me about how important it is to pay attention in school, do my best, respect my teachers, blah, blah, blah.”

Nobody likes being berated, scolded, lectured, or ranted at. No matter how old we are, being on the receiving end always makes us feel like children, don’t you think?

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