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

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 means "sharp point." Latin acūmen traces to the verb acuere, which means "to sharpen" and is related to acus, the Latin word for "needle." In its earliest English uses, 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 apply that ability.

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
Recent Examples on the Web European soccer has long had a love-hate relationship with U.S. owners, who are valued for their money and business acumen but reviled for their ignorance of the game’s history and tradition. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 23 Aug. 2022 Hawkins especially garnered attention for his gardening acumen; he was later commissioned to design the Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Aug. 2022 But in the legal profession Mr. Shargel was admired for his courtroom acumen. New York Times, 17 July 2022 Fay, the minority leader of the West Hartford town council, is known for her financial acumen at major corporations in the Fortune 500 before winning three elections in her hometown that is dominated by Democrats. Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, 7 May 2022 Beagle, known for his faceoff acumen, has 645 games and 144 points to his credit over 14 NHL seasons. José M. Romero, The Arizona Republic, 18 Apr. 2022 In the mid-1950s, the property was home to Mr. Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha for his investor acumen and now one of the world’s richest men. Katherine Clarke, WSJ, 13 Apr. 2022 Wired tight but with a sense of humor, Showalter is well-known for his baseball acumen, dogged preparedness and meticulous attention to detail. Mike Fitzpatrick,, 18 Dec. 2021 Wired tight but with a sense of humor, Showalter is well-known for his baseball acumen, dogged preparedness and meticulous attention to detail. Mike Fitzpatrick,, 18 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of acumen was circa 1579

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Last Updated

26 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Acumen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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