obtuse

adjective
ob·tuse | \ äb-ˈtüs , əb- , -ˈtyüs \
obtuser; obtusest

Definition of obtuse 

1a : not pointed or acute : blunt

b(1) of an angle : exceeding 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees

(2) : having an obtuse angle an obtuse triangle — see triangle illustration

c of a leaf : rounded at the free end

2a : lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect : insensitive, stupid He is too obtuse to take a hint.

b : difficult to comprehend : not clear or precise in thought or expression It is also, unfortunately, ill-written, and at times obtuse and often trivial. —Shirley Hazzard

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from obtuse

obtusely adverb
obtuseness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for obtuse

dull, blunt, obtuse mean not sharp, keen, or acute. dull suggests a lack or loss of keenness, zest, or pungency. a dull pain a dull mind blunt suggests an inherent lack of sharpness or quickness of feeling or perception. a person of blunt sensibility obtuse implies such bluntness as makes one insensitive in perception or imagination. too obtuse to take the hint

Obtuse vs. Abstruse

Obtuse, which comes to us from the Latin word obtusus, meaning "dull" or "blunt," can describe an angle that is not acute or a person who is mentally "dull" or slow of mind. The word has also developed a somewhat controversial sense of "hard to comprehend," probably as a result of confusion with abstruse. This sense of obtuse is well established, and it is now possible to speak of "obtuse language" and "obtuse explanations," as well as "obtuse angles" and "obtuse readers"; however, it may attract some criticism. If you're hesitant about using new meanings of words, you should probably stick with abstruse when you want a word meaning "difficult to understand."

Examples of obtuse in a Sentence

Murdoch's art, like all good art, is highly structured and controlled—a house neat and clean enough to satisfy the most morally obtuse of her upper-class British characters. —Martha C. Nussbaum, New Republic, 31 Dec. 2001 & 7 Jan. 2002 Only the most obtuse missed the main message: humans risked so distorting the natural order that they were sentencing themselves to be destroyed by frost or furnace. —Joseph A. Amato, Dust, 2000 In fact, he was too obtuse even to realize that his assignment to Tejas was a demotion … —James A. Michener, Texas, 1985 … either he, and the other people in his shop, and two people I subsequently ask are incapable of giving directions, or I am too rattled and obtuse to follow them, but I cannot find the police station. —Renata Adler, Pitch Dark, 1983 He is too obtuse to take a hint. obtuse scissors designed so that young users will not cut themselves
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But trolling can also encompass any kind of willfully obtuse nonsense that’s designed to confuse people. Film Crit Hulk, The Verge, "Don’t feed the trolls, and other hideous lies," 12 July 2018 Each of Monty’s D’Ysquith victims — including a tipsy clergyman, a rake, a gay beekeeper, an obtuse and meddlesome do-gooder and a frightfully bad actor — are played by James Taylor Odom, tackling the role made famous on Broadway by Jefferson Mays. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Monty Python fans may love'Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder'," 2 May 2018 At the risk of coming off as exhausting or obtuse, Radiohead twitched with invention. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Radiohead keeps things volatile at United Center," 7 July 2018 Expectations that the travel ban will be its first and last result are wishful thinking — thanks to the Supreme Court’s tone-deaf and morally obtuse judgment Tuesday. Aziz Huq, Vox, "The travel ban decision echoes of some of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history," 26 June 2018 Her declarative statements were a stellar performance reiterating how aloof, obtuse and ultimately obstructive this administration is to the racial soul of America. Anchorage Daily News, "Police shootings? Racial tension? Don’t expect input from Trump administration.," 31 Mar. 2018 For Republicans, those who deny that interference by Russian agents and then-FBI Director James Comey played parts in Trump’s victory are naïve or willfully obtuse. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Dems start to get serious about 2020," 1 June 2018 In the long, obtuse history of Things That Became Memes, there are some obvious ones—Nyan Cat, say, or maybe Doge—and some less obvious ones. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "How Europe's GDPR Regulations Became a Meme," 25 May 2018 No academic's obtuse theorizing is required for a deep recognition of the point. Dmitry Samarov, Chicago Reader, "Refrigerator is a chilling look into the near future," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obtuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of obtuse

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for obtuse

Middle English, from Latin obtusus blunt, dull, from past participle of obtundere to beat against, blunt, from ob- against + tundere to beat — more at ob-, contusion

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about obtuse

Listen to Our Podcast about obtuse

Statistics for obtuse

Last Updated

26 Jul 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for obtuse

The first known use of obtuse was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for obtuse

obtuse

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of obtuse

: stupid or unintelligent : not able to think clearly or to understand what is obvious or simple

mathematics : not ending in a sharp point : measuring between 90 degrees and 180 degrees

obtuse

adjective
ob·tuse | \ äb-ˈtüs , -ˈtyüs \

Kids Definition of obtuse

1 : measuring more than a right angle

2 : not able to understand something obvious

obtuse

adjective
ob·tuse | \ äb-ˈt(y)üs, əb- \
obtuser; obtusest

Medical Definition of obtuse 

1 : lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect

2 : not pointed or acute obtuse pain

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on obtuse

What made you want to look up obtuse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

by word of mouth

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!