obtuse

adjective
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

Synonyms

blunt, blunted, dull, dulled

Antonyms

cutting, edged, edgy, ground, honed, keen, pointed, sharp, sharpened, whetted

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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

At first Driss was played for gasps, rather than laughs—as an obtuse thug who’d done some bad things in the past and might do more of them again. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘The Upside’ Review: Uplift on Demand," 10 Jan. 2019 Pruitt may not have committed abominations, but his freewheeling, ethically obtuse management of his agency is a stinker too malodorous to ignore. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Ethics first," 6 Apr. 2018 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

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

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More Definitions for obtuse

obtuse

adjective

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

obtuse

adjective
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

obtuse

adjective
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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More from Merriam-Webster on obtuse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with obtuse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obtuse

Spanish Central: Translation of obtuse

Nglish: Translation of obtuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obtuse for Arabic Speakers

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