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 That struggle has been especially acute for small attractions like the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. oregonlive, "Portland tourist sites take a hit, as hotel rooms sit empty during coronavirus pandemic," 21 May 2020 In the end, even if scrapping labour rules does end up benefiting the workers they were designed to protect, their troubles are acute. The Economist, "Let them eat structural reform! Indian states are rushing to undo laws protecting workers," 18 May 2020 The dynamic is especially acute for African-Americans. Keeanga-yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, "Cancel the Rent," 12 May 2020 The tension is particularly acute in the meatpacking industry because workers often spend long hours in close quarters. Devlin Barrett, Washington Post, "Poultry company’s doctor told local doctors how to advise patients," 8 May 2020 That need is particularly acute as Britain moves further away from its largest trading partner, the EU. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "There’s never been a worse time for the UK to negotiate a trade deal with the US," 5 May 2020 The challenges are also acute for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector, according to the survey. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Many Anchorage businesses fearful of going under during COVID-19 economic crash, survey shows," 1 May 2020 In Texas, a red state which has also seen the bottom fall out of its petroleum industry, the revenue problem is particularly acute. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Garcia: How the Electoral College is polluting COVID-19 relief," 29 Apr. 2020 This problem is particularly acute in political reporting. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Media’s Coronavirus Coverage Exposes Its Ignorance About the Working Class," 22 Apr. 2020

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

Learn More about acute

Time Traveler for acute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for acute

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Acute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acute. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for acute

acute

adjective
How to pronounce acute (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for acute

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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!