crit·​i·​cal | \ˈkri-ti-kəl \

Definition of critical 

1a : inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably His critical temperament cost him several friends.

b : consisting of or involving criticism critical writings also : of or relating to the judgment of critics The play was a critical success.

c : exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation critical thinking a critical commentary on the mayor's proposal

d : including variant readings and scholarly emendations a critical edition

2a : of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture a critical phase : such as

(1) : relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected also : being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death critical care a patient listed in critical condition

(2) : relating to or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a definite change critical temperature

b : indispensable, vital a critical waterfowl habitat a component critical to the operation of a machine

c : being in or approaching a state of crisis a critical shortage a critical situation

d : crucial, decisive a critical test

3a : of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction used of a mass of fissionable material a critical mass

b : sustaining a nuclear chain reaction The reactor went critical.

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Other Words from critical

criticality \ˌkri-​tə-​ˈka-​lə-​tē \ noun
critically \ˈkri-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb
criticalness \ˈkri-​ti-​kəl-​nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for critical

critical, hypercritical, faultfinding, captious, carping, censorious mean inclined to look for and point out faults and defects. critical may also imply an effort to see a thing clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly. a critical essay hypercritical suggests a tendency to judge by unreasonably strict standards. hypercritical disparagement of other people's work faultfinding implies a querulous or exacting temperament. a faultfinding reviewer captious suggests a readiness to detect trivial faults or raise objections on trivial grounds. a captious critic carping implies an ill-natured or perverse picking of flaws. a carping editorial censorious implies a disposition to be severely critical and condemnatory. the censorious tone of the review

synonyms see in addition acute

Examples of critical in a Sentence

The program presents a critical analysis of the government's strategies. She has a talent for critical thinking. We need to look at these proposed changes with a critical eye before we accept them.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Xenophobic views played a critical role in the tardy response to Zika in 2015-16. Ron Klain, Vox, "A pandemic killing tens of millions of people is a real possibility — and we are not prepared for it," 15 Oct. 2018 The belated firing of Benalla, and an initial light punishment, fed questions about whether the presidency under Macron had a hidden side that answered to no one with Benalla playing a critical role. Elaine Ganley, Fox News, "Ex-aide is star witness of panel probing French crisis," 19 Sep. 2018 Another is the posterior cingulate cortex, which Vago says is thought to play a critical role in self-reflection and rumination. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Meditation Can—and Can’t—Do for Your Health," 11 Sep. 2018 The idea of a new award category honoring popular film prompted quite a bit of conversation on Twitter following the announcement, and most of it was critical. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Major Changes Are Coming to the Oscars and People Have Thoughts," 8 Aug. 2018 The next 72 hours were critical; Hudson was stable, but there was potential for his brain to start swelling. Kerry Cromwell, Good Housekeeping, "My Little Boy Was Just 7 Years Old When He Had a Catastrophic Stroke," 26 July 2018 Because breastfeeding is a round-the-clock commitment, employers can play a critical role in supporting their employees’ nursing. Jenna Sauers, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Women Really Quit Breastfeeding," 17 July 2018 This is likely for operations in Syria, where G.R.U. commandos, or Spetsnaz, have been instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State and played a critical role in regaining cities like Aleppo and Palmyra for the Assad government. Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, "G.R.U., Russian Spy Agency Cited by Mueller, Casts a Long Shadow," 13 July 2018 Doctors play an equally critical role in the network of support. Karen S. Lynch, STAT, "Everyone deserves a holistic, patient-centric health care system," 12 July 2018

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

1547, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for critical

in sense "being at a turning point," from 16th-17th century cretike, criticke "at a turning point" (Middle English cretic, borrowed from Late Latin criticus "at a turning point, decisive," borrowed from Greek kritikós, taken as derivative of krísis crisis, replacing earlier krísimos) + -al entry 1; in sense "inclined to criticize, involving criticism," from critic entry 1 + -al entry 1 — more at critic entry 1

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Statistics for critical

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for critical

The first known use of critical was in 1547

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English Language Learners Definition of critical

: expressing criticism or disapproval

: of or relating to the judgments of critics about books, movies, art, etc.

: using or involving careful judgment about the good and bad parts of something


crit·​i·​cal | \ˈkri-ti-kəl \

Kids Definition of critical

1 : likely or eager to find fault

2 : consisting of or involving judgment of value, worth, beauty, or quality critical writings

3 : using or involving careful judgment a critical examination of a patient

4 : extremely important It is critical that you follow the instructions exactly.

Other Words from critical

critically adverb


crit·​i·​cal | \ˈkrit-i-kəl \

Medical Definition of critical 

1a : relating to, indicating, or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be anticipated with reasonable certainty the critical phase of a fever

b : being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death critical care a critical head injury

2a : of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction used of a mass of fissionable material

b : sustaining a chain reaction used of a nuclear reactor

Other Words from critical

critically \-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on critical

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for critical

Spanish Central: Translation of critical

Nglish: Translation of critical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of critical for Arabic Speakers

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