obtuse

adjective
ob·​tuse | \ äb-ˈtüs How to pronounce obtuse (audio) , əb-, -ˈtyüs \
obtuser; obtusest

Essential Meaning of obtuse

1 formal : stupid or unintelligent : not able to think clearly or to understand what is obvious or simple He is too obtuse to take a hint. an incredibly obtuse person
2 mathematics : not ending in a sharp point : measuring between 90 degrees and 180 degrees an obtuse angle

Full 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 Likewise, obtuse efforts by loyalist senators and representatives to void the votes were seen as cynical political theater and legally doomed. Jonathan Stevenson, The New York Review of Books, 9 Jan. 2021 Public officials who are concerned about school closures, lockdowns, or mandates are small-minded and obtuse. Frederick Hess, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Power of the Dog is in no rush to show its hand, and the film can feel almost willfully obtuse in its pacing and plot. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 7 Sep. 2021 One tone-deaf moment in a three-page article is slight, almost too slight to mention, but the misleading quotation certainly makes Virginia Woolf sound dismissive and obtuse. Catherine Nicholson, The New York Review of Books, 1 July 2021 Even if the plot is mostly obtuse, the clip still feels like a grand, golden-age Hollywood film ripe for rediscovery. Billboard, 29 July 2021 Fortunately, cars coming to our shores will have Apple and Android phone-mirroring capability, which will allow owners to mostly avoid VW's obtuse infotainment system. Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver, 13 May 2021 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, 31 Mar. 2021 It’s a willfully obtuse villain tale as old as the Dire Hard series. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, 28 Mar. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near obtuse

obturbinate

obtuse

obtuse-angled

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Last Updated

30 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for obtuse

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

More from Merriam-Webster on obtuse

Nglish: Translation of obtuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obtuse for Arabic Speakers

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