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

Antonyms

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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 The responses to Attorney General Bill Barr’s remarks this week were even more obtuse. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Trump Says Vote Early and Often," 3 Sep. 2020 The idea that everyone should show up like a boss, so current five years ago, feels hollow now that the brutal inequalities in our system have become undeniable to all but the most willfully obtuse. Carina Chocano, The Atlantic, "What Is MasterClass Actually Selling?," 10 Aug. 2020 There’s some truth to the generalization that Italian cars, especially performance cars like Ferraris, have comically obtuse setups of knobs and screens. Alexander George, Popular Mechanics, "The Ferrari F8 is the Example for Modern, Mid-Engine Supercars," 7 Aug. 2020 The eye under-reacts to acute angles and over-reacts to obtuse angles. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Now Is the Time to Overreact," 16 Mar. 2020 On the other hand, if Warren had been obtuse, ignorant, and unready, that wouldn’t have worked, either. Katha Pollitt, The New Yorker, "Mad About Elizabeth Warren," 13 Mar. 2020 In some cases, the government's words seem purposefully obtuse, but water is, well, slippery. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Trump Strips Protections for Streams and Wetlands," 24 Jan. 2020 Roger Goodell has gotten very rich by being amazingly obtuse. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Business as usual? NFL could look tone deaf, again," 16 Mar. 2020 Reviled by serious data experts, a 1984 study outlined how people tend to underestimate the size of acute angles (obtuse ones (>90°). Dan Kopf, Quartz, "Designers and statisticians disagree on what makes a good information graphic," 12 Jan. 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

17 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 21 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for obtuse

obtuse

adjective
How to pronounce obtuse (audio)

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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Comments on obtuse

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