acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

The problems are made more acute because so many Hong Kong companies have controlling shareholders. Mike Bird, WSJ, "A Major Market’s Major Headache: Stocks That Crash Without Warning," 21 Jan. 2019 Both are in metropolitan areas that are already far above the national median income and that are already suffering from some acute crises of housing supply. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The tragedy of Amazon’s HQ2 selections, explained," 9 Nov. 2018 The democracy movement’s prescription may be the proper one for a moment of acute democratic crisis. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "America’s Version of Capitalism Is Incompatible With Democracy," 23 May 2018 But a more acute crisis began in 2015, when the state closed beds at API because of a psychiatrist shortage. Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s only psychiatric emergency room is overflowing. It’s a sign of a system breaking down.," 11 May 2018 Sudan has been suffering from an acute fuel crisis since the beginning of last April, with long lines for oil appearing in the capital Khartoum and other states. Bloomberg.com, "Saudi Arabia to Supply Sudan With Oil in Midst of Fuel Crisis," 7 May 2018 Martucci noted the unit is an infirmary with mental health and medical providers on scene to care for the most acute mental health and medical cases. Peter Marteka, Courant Community, "Department Of Correction, State Police Investigating Inmate's Death," 25 Mar. 2018 The pressure is particularly acute in India, a small but highly promising market for makers of sanitary products where the government is increasingly cracking down on waste. Saabira Chaudhuri, WSJ, "P&G Faces Backlash Over Diaper, Sanitary Waste," 3 Apr. 2019 The toxicological analysis determined the cause of death: acute barbiturate poisoning. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "The Complete History of the Autopsy," 26 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for acute

acute

adjective

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

acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \
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

acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \

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 entry 1 sense 2a
(2) : acute care an acute hospital
c : lasting a short time acute experiments

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on acute

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with acute

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for acute

Spanish Central: Translation of acute

Nglish: Translation of acute for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of acute for Arabic Speakers

Comments on acute

What made you want to look up acute? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

behavior toward others

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!