1 of 3


: sharply outlined : distinct
: free from ambiguity or uncertainty : unambiguous
a clear-cut decision


2 of 3


: an area of forest in which all the trees have been cut down
But the logging has been concentrated in the high-volume old-growth forest, and clear-cuts are spread over almost every one of the region's watersheds.Catherine Caufield
also : clear-cutting


3 of 3


clear-cut; clear-cutting

transitive verb

: to cut down all the trees in (an area of forest)
He says there has been a massive deforestation as the Chinese have clear-cut millions of acres of Tibetan Forests to sell lumber on the export market …Daniel Goleman
… native rain forest experts who harvest plants for traditional healers, make from two to 10 times per hectare the income of a farmer who clear-cuts the forest for planting crops.Cathy Sears and Robert Neuwirth

Examples of clear-cut in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The city’s independent budget analyst said the legal risks aren’t clear-cut, noting that the deals between the companies and the state don’t anticipate the question facing San Diego. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Jan. 2024 Although Latham and Locke’s principles seem pretty clear-cut, some are trickier than others. Gina Jiménez, Scientific American, 22 Jan. 2024 Legal protections are not clear-cut and are uncertain until tested by litigation and/or legislation. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, 16 Jan. 2024 But other times, one goaltender’s performance would surpass the other and call for a clear-cut starter. Jenna Ortiz, The Arizona Republic, 13 Jan. 2024 But evidence is not clear-cut: the positions of erupting volcanoes don’t perfectly match the expectations of any heating hypothesis. Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, 20 Nov. 2023 Confidence: Medium-High The weekend forecast isn’t totally clear-cut. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 18 Dec. 2023 Students, on average, ranked fairly high on anti-Israel sentiment. Dec. 13, 2023 The results on antisemitism were less clear-cut: About 25% showed fairly high levels of antisemitic beliefs, though only about 2% were antisemitic across the board. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec. 2023 And this, misinformation generated by AI, is another thing that is clear-cut in terms of being problematic. Lauren Goode, WIRED, 20 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1849, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1958, in the meaning defined above


1914, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of clear-cut was in 1849

Dictionary Entries Near clear-cut

Cite this Entry

“Clear-cut.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: free from doubt or uncertainty : definite
a clear-cut victory
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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