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

Few Stravinsky scores are more incisive or thrilling: This is scored for four solo singers, a choir (Musica Sacra in the current performances), four pianos and percussion. New York Times, "Jerome Robbins, the Experimentalist," 10 May 2018 And yet Who Is America so rarely lives up to its best self, to the degree that the last couple of episodes have felt composed of odds and ends, rather than particularly incisive or even funny comedic bits. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America has nothing to say in the end," 24 Aug. 2018 Beyond their value as personal meditations on otherness, Nuanced outsider and The impossibility of being outside take an incisive view of our broader cultural moment. Marley Marius, Vogue, "At the Honolulu Biennial, Artist Amy Yao Examines Environments and Identity (With the Help of Some Algae)," 12 Mar. 2019 Quagliarella had given Italy renewed attacking vigour and his incisive play allowed Di Natale to half the deficit., "World Cup Countdown: 8 Days to Go - The Rapid Decline of Italy's Golden Generation," 6 June 2018 The portraits of Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, the Spartan general Brasidas, and others are incisive and pointed. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "History Made by Men, Not Gods," 9 Nov. 2018 Expect his questions to be among the most incisive. Natalia Drozdiak, WSJ, "What Could Facebook’s Zuckerberg Be Quizzed on at European Hearing?," 22 May 2018 This was a few years ago—the web series, which also marries crisp, incisive writing with maniacal situations, launched in 2013—and the two were concerned about how their filmic alter egos would translate offscreen. Sally Singer, Vogue, "With Slash, a Fetish for Pop Culture Leads to the Stage," 8 Jan. 2019 Return of the Obra Dinn is the product of a polymath named Lucas Pope, the creator of the ruthlessly incisive and award-winning immigration simulator Papers, Please. Laura Hudson, The Verge, "Why Return of the Obra Dinn is my game of the year," 21 Dec. 2018

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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incised meander






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Last Updated

8 May 2019

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Time Traveler for incisive

The first known use of incisive was circa 1834

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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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Spanish Central: Translation of incisive

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Britannica English: Translation of incisive for Arabic Speakers

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one that collects or salvages junk

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