Callous | Definition, Meaning & Examples

Callous is an adjective meaning “cruel” or “lacking sympathy.”

Examples: Callous in a sentence
In a callous act, the principal fired Jerome in front of his coworkers.

I don’t mean to be callous, but I’m not loaning you any more money.

Zadie is not usually callous; she was just having a bad day.

The doctor seemed callous when he delivered the bad news.

Calloused or callused

The adjective calloused (with an “o”) describes an area of skin that has been hardened by friction. While calloused is the standard spelling, callused (no “o”) is an accepted variant.

Examples: Calloused vs. callused
Annette’s fingers were calloused/callused from playing guitar.

Dion’s feet were calloused/callused from walking the Camino de Santiago.

The area of hardened skin itself is always called a callus (no “o”). Unlike callous (an adjective), callus is a noun.

Even though callused and calloused are interchangeable, callus and callous are not. So it would be incorrect to describe someone as “callus” or to say that you had “a callous.”

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Frequently asked questions

What is a synonym for “callous”?

Some synonyms for “callous” include:

  • Brutal
  • Cruel
  • Hard
  • Harsh
  • Heartless
  • Inhuman
  • Insensitive
  • Unsympathetic
What is an antonym of “callous”?

Some antonyms (opposites) for “callous” include:

  • Compassionate
  • Humane
  • Kind
  • Sensitive
  • Sympathetic
  • Tender
  • Understanding
  • Warm
  • Warmhearted

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.