ob·​tuse äb-ˈtüs How to pronounce obtuse (audio)
obtuser; obtusest
: not pointed or acute : blunt
of an angle : exceeding 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees
: having an obtuse angle
an obtuse triangle
see triangle illustration
of a leaf : rounded at the free end
: lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect : insensitive, stupid
He is too obtuse to take a hint.
: 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
obtusely adverb
obtuseness noun

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Obtuse vs. Abstruse

Obtuse comes from a Latin word meaning "dull" or "blunt." It can describe a geometric angle that is not acute or a person who is mentally "dull." In addition, obtuse can mean "hard to comprehend." That meaning is probably from confusion with the similar-sounding abstruse.

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

Example Sentences

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 Those harsh colors and unnatural lighting effects can be toned down of course, but the settings options in modern televisions tend to be obtuse, and most viewers never take the time to navigate their set’s labyrinthian menus and dial in the proper picture. WIRED, 22 Nov. 2022 This is stunningly obtuse. David Cole, The New York Review of Books, 8 July 2022 Their briefings were obtuse. NBC News, 20 Dec. 2020 Paris might be the most multicultural city in Europe, but the amount of obtuse questions and conversations that Toure and Kacey have been subjected to over the years proves that living amongst Black people isn’t the same as understanding Black people. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, 20 Sep. 2022 Alternating between traditional multi-camera comedy and single camera realism, the new perspective here comes from Kevin’s wife Allison (Murphy, who desperately wants to break out of a stifling life is run by her infuriatingly juvenile spouse and his equally obtuse buddies. Jeanne Jakle, San Antonio Express-News, 2 June 2021 Instagram messenger posed an obtuse question. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 23 Mar. 2021 Good metaphors can make a complex and obtuse world seem exciting and accessible. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 17 Feb. 2012 Instead of having to parry attacks by McAuliffe and Democrats on his obtuse stance on vaccines (he’s taken the vaccine but views it as a personal choice), Youngkin has been mostly playing offense for weeks. Daniel Strauss, The New Republic, 2 Nov. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'obtuse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near obtuse

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 30 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


ob·​tuse äb-ˈt(y)üs How to pronounce obtuse (audio)
obtuser; obtusest
: not pointed or sharp : blunt
: being between 90° and 180°
an obtuse angle
: having an obtuse angle
an obtuse triangle
: not quick or keen of understanding or feeling
obtuseness noun

Medical Definition


ob·​tuse äb-ˈt(y)üs, əb- How to pronounce obtuse (audio)
obtuser; obtusest
: lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect
: not pointed or acute
obtuse pain

More from Merriam-Webster on obtuse

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