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

Hosted by CNN Business correspondents, the 15-minute program features incisive commentary from experts. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "Don't bet against Apple, says tech investing legend Alan Patricof," 9 July 2019 At the same time, Davis writes angular, incisive vocal lines in the mid-century modernist tradition. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Meredith Monk’s “ATLAS” and the L.A. Phil’s Extraordinary Season," 24 June 2019 The answers the White House aspirants gave were by turns surprising, incisive and even amusing., "‘No one deserves a billion dollars,’ ‘I’m on my bicycle as much as I can’: Guess which presidential candidate said it," 20 June 2019 Cummings’ signature incisive commentary on gender dynamics is more relevant than ever. Kathryn Lindsay,, "Everything Coming To Netflix In July," 20 June 2019 The Morning Win: USA TODAY’s irreverent and incisive recap of daily sports news. Editors, USA TODAY, "The news. It's happening. Every night. Stay on top of it with our new Evening Briefing," 14 June 2019 While news that traffic is getting worse sounds as incisive as pointing out the sun rises in the east, there was some good news buried within the tales of gridlock and traffic jams. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Sick of traffic? Get cities to invest in bikes and mass transit, says report," 11 June 2019 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

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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Last Updated

17 Jul 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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