acu·​punc·​ture ˈa-kyə-ˌpəŋ(k)-chər How to pronounce acupuncture (audio)
: an originally Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points especially to cure disease or relieve pain (as in surgery)
acupuncture transitive verb
acupuncturist noun

Did you know?

In Latin, acus means "needle", and the English word acupuncture was coined way back in the 17th century to describe a technique the Chinese had already been using for 2,000 years. An acupuncturist may insert many extremely fine needles at a time; the treatment is usually uncomfortable but not truly painful. In China today, even major surgery is often carried out using only acupuncture to kill the pain; it's also used for many other conditions, including insomnia, depression, smoking, and overweight. Acupuncture is based on ancient theories of bodily energy that few Western doctors have ever accepted; but even though attempts to explain its effects by Western science have been unsuccessful, it's now widely recognized by doctors as effective for pain reduction.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Their answers included both acupuncture and garbage—and surely other real-estate agents out there have had experiences that give these a run for their money. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 30 May 2023 Best Wellness Retreats To Visit In 2023 Other wellness activities include hiking, star-gazing, meditation, cryotherapy, mindful art, nutrition services and functional medicine, acupuncture and chiropractor services, and spa and beauty treatments. Alyssa Girdwain, Women's Health, 7 Apr. 2023 Medicare in early 2020 began covering acupuncture under certain circumstances. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, 13 Jan. 2023 Back at the resort, the spa is a place of dreams, offering restorative massages, acupuncture, anti-ageing treatments, and Ayurvedic therapies. Bridget Arsenault, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2022 Regular yoga, along with acupuncture and visits to a chiropractor, have been transformative. Karen Weintraub, USA Today, 11 Dec. 2022 Individual and group therapy for Black residents of L.A. Services also include crisis intervention and case management, as well as yoga, acupuncture and gardening workshops. Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2022 Richard Nahin, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health who led the NIH study, said physicians have also gotten more interested in integrative therapies for chronic pain like acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga. Aria Bendix, NBC News, 16 May 2023 Complementary and integrative medicines can also be a useful avenue to explore for treating anxiety.2526 These include tools such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, dietary changes, and supplements. Sarah Anzlovar, Ms, Verywell Health, 15 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acupuncture.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin acū- (stem—or ablative—of acus "needle") + puncture entry 1 — more at acute

First Known Use

1684, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of acupuncture was in 1684

Dictionary Entries Near acupuncture

Cite this Entry

“Acupuncture.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


acu·​punc·​ture ˈak-yə-ˌpəŋ(k)-chər How to pronounce acupuncture (audio)
: an originally Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specified points especially to cure disease or relieve pain

Latin acus "needle" and English puncture

Medical Definition


acu·​punc·​ture -ˌpəŋ(k)-chər How to pronounce acupuncture (audio)
: an originally Chinese practice of inserting fine needles through the skin at specific points especially to cure disease, relieve pain, or promote healing

More from Merriam-Webster on acupuncture

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