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 Fauntleroy says the practice of acupuncture helps address the layered issue that plagues many working, ambitious Black women: unabating fatigue. Jasmine Browley, Essence, 27 Oct. 2022 Richards will discuss how acupuncture can help with fertility, pregnancy and labor. oregonlive, 17 Oct. 2022 Physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture help sometimes—but not always. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 27 Oct. 2022 Many elderly birds require special treatment, including eye drops, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Bailey Allen,, 20 Oct. 2022 Richards has practiced fertility and prenatal acupuncture for 20 years. oregonlive, 17 Oct. 2022 Sometimes it may be altered with skilled physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, or other therapies. Meredith Butulis, Outside Online, 14 Oct. 2022 Compassion also benefits the sufferer: For example, doctors who are more comfortable around patients in pain may be more successful navigating painful treatment, such as acupuncture. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, 8 Sep. 2022 The studio also hosts monthly sound baths, and the owners eventually plan to offer massage, acupuncture and reiki. Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2022 See More

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

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 28 Nov. 2022.

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

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

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