acu·​men | \ ˈa-kyü-mən How to pronounce acumen (audio) , ə-ˈkyü-mən How to pronounce acumen (audio) \

Definition of acumen

: keenness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination especially in practical matters

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Choose the Right Synonym for acumen

discernment, discrimination, perception, penetration, insight, acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art). the discernment to know true friends discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent. the discrimination that develops through listening to a lot of great music perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling). a novelist of keen perception into human motives penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial. lacks the penetration to see the scorn beneath their friendly smiles insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy. a documentary providing insight into the plight of the homeless acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment. a director of reliable box-office acumen

How did acumen evolve?

A keen mind and a sharp wit can pierce the soul as easily as a needle passes through cloth. Remember the analogy between a jabbing needle and piercing perception, and you will readily recall the history of acumen. Our English word retains the spelling and figurative meaning of its direct Latin ancestor, a term that literally meant "point." Latin acumen traces to the verb acuere, which means "to sharpen" and derives from acus, the Latin word for "needle." In its first known English uses in the 1500s, acumen referred specifically to a sharpness of wit. In modern English, it conveys the sense that someone is perceptive enough to grasp a situation quickly and clever enough to use it.

Examples of acumen in a Sentence

And perhaps this is just part of Washington's transition into the new economy: the triumph of national brands over local loyalty, of business acumen over upper Northwest idealism. — Franklin Foer, New Republic, 7 Feb. 2000 … the historical acumen, the steady shrewdness, and the uncommon common sense with which the old maestro watches the American procession of similar problems faced by dissimilar egos. — Alistair Cooke, New Yorker, 9 Feb. 1987 Here was a man of extraordinary sensitivity, political acumen, spiritual power, and sexual wildness; a free spirit if ever there was one. — Alice Walker, Living by the Word, 1986 Her political acumen won her the election. a lack of business acumen
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Recent Examples on the Web

Proof of Kirchner’s acumen is her choice to run alongside Fernández, as Vice-President—a decision that has prompted skepticism but also relief among those who see her legacy as a disgrace to Peronism. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, "Argentina Considers a Return to Peronism," 28 Aug. 2019 His strategic acumen was such that the old coach of this same player's team would call during the season to talk X's and O's. Jon Wertheim,, "How the Influence of Al Davis Shaped the Modern NFL," 27 Aug. 2019 Your business acumen is at a peak in late September and early October, making that an ideal time to re-evaluate your finances or business plans. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for Aug. 8, 2019: Leo, love conquers all; Scorpio, focus on home and family," 8 Aug. 2019 Brandon Belt is signed long-term, too, but his on-base acumen makes him a different animal. Henry Schulman,, "Can older Giants like Posey, Crawford, Longoria adjust to hitting’s new norm?," 13 July 2019 Holm isn’t likely to wade into an immediate brawl, as Cyborg did, and her kickboxing acumen is likely to force Nunes to be more patient. Greg Beacham, The Denver Post, "The best ever? Jon Jones, Amanda Nunes could make cases at UFC 239.," 5 July 2019 Japan, which has cultivated just this rubbish acumen, is hoping to cash in on the refuse boom. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Japan wants to become Southeast Asia’s trash manager," 23 June 2019 His tactical acumen, however, has been legitimately lambasted time and again., "Why Didier Deschamps Is Still a Problem Regardless of Leading France to the World Cup Final," 12 July 2018 Perhaps a better test of President Trump’s political acumen falls in a battleground state like Nevada. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Reporter's Notebook: What Mark Sanford's loss tells us about Trump's political muscle in the midterm elections," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acumen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of acumen

circa 1579, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for acumen

borrowed from Latin acūmen "sharp point, stinger, acuteness of mind," from acū-, stem of acuere "to sharpen" + -men, resultative noun suffix — more at acute

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for acumen

The first known use of acumen was circa 1579

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English Language Learners Definition of acumen

: the ability to think clearly and make good decisions

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with acumen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for acumen

Spanish Central: Translation of acumen

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Britannica English: Translation of acumen for Arabic Speakers

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to spread over or through

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