ob·​tuse | \ äb-ˈtüs How to pronounce obtuse (audio) , 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

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Other Words from obtuse

obtusely adverb
obtuseness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for obtuse



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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
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Recent Examples on the Web Hoffman, who died in 2014, was credible as smart or dumb people, as self-aware or obtuse, as powerful or weak, jolly or sad, brave or cowardly, bold or meek, quiet or loud. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, "7 of the finest film performances by the gifted, prolific Philip Seymour Hoffman," 31 Mar. 2021 It’s a willfully obtuse villain tale as old as the Dire Hard series. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "The Irregulars Probably Already Revealed Its Season 2 Villain," 28 Mar. 2021 If Regan were your dad, his deliberately obtuse observations might embarrass you. Jim Kiest And Deborah Martin, San Antonio Express-News, "Randy Rogers Band, Brian Regan and 13 more things to do this weekend in San Antonio," 25 Mar. 2021 Yet, here are the obtuse majoritarian offerings of the national political correspondent for McClatchy News: Protections for children of undocumented parents? David Harsanyi, National Review, "The Unmitigated Hypocrisy of the Filibuster Busters," 17 Mar. 2021 His understated style and eagerness to bore into the most obtuse policy matters were a draw for Biden, who did not know Becerra well before nominating him. Los Angeles Times, "Who are President Biden’s Cabinet members and nominees?," 8 Mar. 2021 It’s because the male is too obtuse, self-absorbed, and overloaded with fantasy and projection, or too dishonest and insecure, or merely too professionally and financially ambitious, to see what’s before his clouded eyes. Russell Banks, The New Yorker, "The Marvellous, Forgotten Stories of A. E. Coppard," 23 Feb. 2021 Fox News, The Washington Examiner, and The Federalist ran stories with headlines suggesting that Wilkinson literally called for Pence to be lynched, a willfully obtuse reading. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Don’t Fire People For Dumb Tweets," 22 Jan. 2021 All of this is broached, though often in language that is both maddeningly dispassionate and morally obtuse. Washington Post, "The Army’s new museum is what we need at this moment of constitutional peril," 12 Nov. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for obtuse

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

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Last Updated

15 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for obtuse



English Language Learners Definition of obtuse

formal : 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


ob·​tuse | \ äb-ˈtüs How to pronounce obtuse (audio) , -ˈtyüs \

Kids Definition of obtuse

1 : measuring more than a right angle
2 : not able to understand something obvious


ob·​tuse | \ äb-ˈt(y)üs, əb- How to pronounce obtuse (audio) \
obtuser; obtusest

Medical Definition of obtuse

1 : lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect
2 : not pointed or acute obtuse pain

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