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

Other Words from incisive

incisively adverb
incisiveness noun

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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 Some insiders say, however, that a more incisive measure of health is the average ticket price, derived by dividing Broadway’s total gross receipts by the total number of attendees. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2021 Her incisive commentary, tough questioning and astute insight have guided our audiences through the last seven years. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 20 Dec. 2021 It’s driven by a constant flow of incisive psychological and social observations. New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021 In this even-handed but incisive chronicle, Oppenheimer charts how the community responded in the year following the murder of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9 Dec. 2021 Greg Tate, one of the most incisive, insightful, and influential cultural critics of the past 35 years, has died. Hank Shteamer, Rolling Stone, 7 Dec. 2021 But as Adom Getachew argues in her astute and incisive first book, Worldmaking After Empire, that is pretty much the opposite of the truth. Fara Dabhoiwala, The New York Review of Books, 1 July 2021 Humor is a great way to explore some of the more questionable traditions of this profession — there’s a reason why the comedy account of the particularly incisive Dr. Glaucomflecken has nearly half a million followers on Twitter. Alessandra Colaianni, STAT, 25 Nov. 2021 Hardwick’s early reviews—of such material as the diaries of Paul Valéry and the letters of Hart Crane—were incisive and uncompromising. Maggie Doherty, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2021

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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The first known use of incisive was circa 1834

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Last Updated

6 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Incisive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for incisive



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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