in·​ci·​sive | \ in-ˈsī-siv How to pronounce incisive (audio) \

Definition of incisive

: impressively direct and decisive (as in manner or presentation) an incisive analysis an incisive unsentimental writer

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Other Words from incisive

incisively adverb
incisiveness noun

Did You Know?

Incisive has meant "impressively direct and decisive" since around 1834 and derives from the Latin verb caedere, meaning "to cut." Its linguistic kin include many cuttings from the fruitful stem caedere, such as scissors, chisel, incise ("to cut into or engrave"), excise ("to remove by cutting"), incisor ("a front tooth typically adapted for cutting"), incision ("cut" or "gash"), precise ("minutely exact"), and concise ("brief"). Incisive also carries a couple of lesser-known literal meanings relating to cutting: "having a cutting edge or piercing point" (as in "incisive fangs"), and, in dentistry, "of, relating to, or situated near the incisors."

Examples of incisive in a Sentence

She's known for her incisive mind and quick wit.
Recent Examples on the Web Dutcher has said Fisher was at his best, at his most incisive, following a particularly wrenching loss, calmly exhorting his team not to let Wyoming or USD or Grand Canyon beat them twice. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, "SDSU basketball’s secret sauce: Its ‘next play’ mentality," 30 Dec. 2020 It’s both a scintillating portrait of Black queerness and a bleak account of slavery in the antebellum South, captured in Jones’ lyrical yet incisive prose. Annabel Gutterman, Time, "Here Are the 10 New Books You Should Read in January," 22 Dec. 2020 That process, however, has been on life support for more than a decade, and in The War of Return, Einat Wilf’s incisive and bracing revisionist look at the conflict, with journalist Adi Schwartz, the real reason quickly becomes apparent. Michael M. Rosen, National Review, "The Real Obstacle to Peace in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict," 20 Aug. 2020 Before launching into our editors’ picks for 2020, a caveat: There were far too many incisive questions, brilliant insights and entertaining remarks to include in this short roundup. Quanta Magazine, "Our Favorite Comments of the Year," 23 Dec. 2020 As important is Ashe’s penchant for keeping the camera still, using proscenium-like framings (and brief punctuations of closeups) to match the actors in creating drama with incisive economy of movement. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Review: “Sylvie’s Love” Revives the Art of the Classic Hollywood Romance," 22 Dec. 2020 In 2016, Chappelle opened the show with an incisive and wide-ranging monologue that addressed the election, mass shootings and police brutality. Editors, USA TODAY, "Election update, watching Eta, Rock Hall of Fame and Pac-12: 5 things to know this weekend," 7 Nov. 2020 Jader Bignamini, Detroit’s gifted new music director, established himself as an incisive leader. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "What Does It Mean to “Reimagine” an Orchestra Season?," 30 Nov. 2020 In this, Obama resorts to the obvious rather than risking the incisive. Washington Post, "What does Obama really think about Biden? His memoir doesn’t say.," 18 Nov. 2020

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

circa 1834, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for incisive

Time Traveler

The first known use of incisive was circa 1834

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Last Updated

6 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incisive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for incisive


How to pronounce incisive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incisive

: very clear and direct : able to explain difficult ideas clearly and confidently


in·​ci·​sive | \ in-ˈsī-siv How to pronounce incisive (audio) \

Medical Definition of incisive

: incisal also : of, relating to, or situated near the incisors

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