\ə-ˈkyüt \
acuter; acutest

Definition of acute 

1a(1) : characterized by sharpness or severity of sudden onset acute pain

(2) : having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course acute illness

(3) : being, providing, or requiring short-term medical care (as for serious illness or traumatic injury) acute hospitals an acute patient

b : lasting a short time acute experiments

2 : ending in a sharp point: such as

a : being or forming an angle measuring less than 90 degrees an acute angle

b : composed of acute angles an acute triangle

3a of an accent mark : having the form ´

b : marked with an acute accent

c : of the variety indicated by an acute accent

4a : marked by keen discernment or intellectual perception especially of subtle distinctions an acute thinker

b : responsive to slight impressions or stimuli acute hearing

5 : felt, perceived, or experienced intensely acute distress

6 : demanding urgent attention an acute emergency

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Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for acute

acute, critical, crucial mean of uncertain outcome. acute stresses intensification of conditions leading to a culmination or breaking point. an acute housing shortage critical adds to acute implications of imminent change, of attendant suspense, and of decisiveness in the outcome. the war has entered a critical phase crucial suggests a dividing of the ways and often a test or trial involving the determination of a future course or direction. a crucial vote

synonyms see in addition sharp

Ways to Be Acute

For such a short and simple-looking word, acute has a rather bewildering range of meanings. It first entered the English language with a medical sense, referring to the sharpness or severity of a symptom. It retains this meaning today, but can also refer to the severity of more general matters, such as "acute embarrassment" or "an acute shortage."

Acute is also frequently used to describe less troublesome matters, such as keenness of perception ("an acute observer" or "an acute sense of smell"), a type of angle (one measuring less than 90 degrees), or the demand for urgent attention ("acute danger").

Examples of acute in a Sentence

an acute sense of humor It's a politically acute film that does not oversimplify the issues.

Recent Examples on the Web

In 2012, he was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis exacerbated by heavy drinking. Alejandra Reyes-velarde,, "Police rule out foul play in Avicii's death," 22 Apr. 2018 Avicii had canceled tour dates in 2014 after having his gall bladder and appendix removed, and had been hospitalized twice in the preceding two years for acute pancreatitis, according to Billboard. The Washington Post,, "Avicii, struggling with health and fame, tried to walk away from it all two years before he died," 21 Apr. 2018 In 2012, he had been hospitalized for 11 days with acute pancreatitis. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "Dance music star Avicii dead at 28," 20 Apr. 2018 Avicii took a break from performing in 2016 due to health problems, including acute pancreatitis, according to Variety. Jennifer Earl, Fox News, "Avicii's death 'shocks,' 'devastates' fans of Swedish DJ," 20 Apr. 2018 One of Boundless Mind’s new clients, AppliedVR, provides virtual-reality therapy to patients with chronic and acute pain at 190 hospitals nationwide. Haley Sweetland Edwards, Time, "You're Addicted to Your Smartphone. This Company Thinks It Can Change That," 13 Apr. 2018 That includes anyone who has been prescribed a painkiller for chronic or acute pain. Terry Demio, USA TODAY, "To save lives, the surgeon general says get the opioid antidote naloxone. Here's what to do.," 6 Apr. 2018 Lincoln specializes in prevention and wellness as well as the diagnosis and management of chronic and acute illnesses. Staff Report, Houston Chronicle, "Doctor joins care group in Sienna Plantation," 13 Feb. 2018 This isn’t only a matter of the different needs of patients facing acute, or short-term pain, such as those recovering from surgery, but also patients in need of chronic pain management, like those with cancer or back pain. WSJ, "Should the Government Limit a Physician’s Ability to Treat Patients With Opioids?," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acute.' 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 acute

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for acute

Middle English, borrowed from Latin acūtus "sharpened, pointed, having a violent onset, discerning, less than 90 degrees (of an angle)," from past participle of acuere "to sharpen, rouse, stimulate," probably derived from an otherwise unattested adjective stem acū- "sharp"; akin to acū-, acus "needle," a perhaps independently derived noun; further akin to Old Church Slavic osŭtŭ "thistle," Lithuanian ãšutas "hair of a horse's tail or mane"; all going back to the Indo-European base *h2eḱ- "sharp" — more at edge entry 1

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Statistics for acute

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for acute

The first known use of acute was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of acute

: very serious or dangerous : requiring serious attention or action

: having or showing an ability to think clearly and to understand what is not obvious or simple about something

: very strong and sensitive : highly developed


\ə-ˈkyüt \
acuter; acutest

Kids Definition of acute

1 : measuring less than 90 degrees acute angles

2 : marked by or showing an ability to understand things that are not obvious an acute observation

3 : severe, sharp acute pain

4 : developing quickly and lasting only a short time acute illness

5 : critical sense 4, urgent an acute shortage of food

6 : very strong and sensitive an acute sense of smell

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun


\ə-ˈkyüt \

Medical Definition of acute 

1 : sensing or perceiving accurately, clearly, effectively, or sensitively acute vision

2a : characterized by sharpness or severity of sudden onset acute pain brought on by injury an acute infection

b(1) : having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course acute illness an acute inflammation — compare chronic sense 2a

(2) : acute care an acute hospital

c : lasting a short time acute experiments

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

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