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

Finding regulatory relief that ensure the United States is still the world leader in innovation and delivering safe treatments to patients is critical. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Novartis, Michael Cohen contacts were more extensive than previously disclosed," 13 July 2018 Their five-year mandatory minimum sentence drew criticism from ranchers’ groups who have been critical of the government’s stewardship of the nation’s expansive federal lands. Matt Pearce,, "Pardoned by Trump, Oregon ranchers ride home in style on Pence ally's private jet," 12 July 2018 My first reaction to the new proposal by state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, to end the state’s ban on the sale of some consumer fireworks was critical. Ted Slowik, Daily Southtown, "Slowik: I’m for legalizing fireworks if taxes fund safety education," 11 July 2018 Without any state funding, there are 68 fellows this year, but McCarron said state support will be critical to exponentially grow the program. Hannah Holzer, sacbee, "California needs more mental health professionals – and the shortage will get worse, experts say," 11 July 2018 Such discoveries are critical, because what happens in Myanmar doesn’t always stay in Myanmar. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "A Never-Before-Seen Virus Has Been Detected in Myanmar’s Bats," 11 July 2018 But one in four is no small number — which shows why keeping abortions safe and legal is critical. Mckenzie Schwark, Teen Vogue, "Abortion-Rights Hashtag Signals Opposition to Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Nomination," 10 July 2018 In order to continue to grow the economic significance of PortMiami, sustained investments in infrastructure are critical. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "Despite recent dredge, PortMiami still can't fit some large ships. New project in the works," 8 July 2018 The next day, his wife wrote on his Facebook page on his behalf explaining that her husband was in intensive care and his condition critical. Alexia Fernandez,, "Man Who Smelled So Bad a Plane Had to Make Emergency Landing Dies a Month Later of Necrosis," 27 June 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

13 Oct 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

Comments on critical

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