adjective ob·tuse \ äb-ˈtüs , əb- , -ˈtyüs \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of obtuse

obtuser; obtusest
1 a : 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
2 a : 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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Examples of obtuse in a Sentence

  1. 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. NussbaumNew Republic31 Dec. 2001 & 7 Jan. 2002
  2. 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. AmatoDust2000
  3. In fact, he was too obtuse even to realize that his assignment to Tejas was a demotion … —James A. MichenerTexas1985
  4. … 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 AdlerPitch Dark1983
  5. He is too obtuse to take a hint.

  6. obtuse scissors designed so that young users will not cut themselves

Recent Examples of obtuse from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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

Other Mathematics and Statistics Terms

OBTUSE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of obtuse for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids


adjective ob·tuse \ äb-ˈtüs , -ˈtyüs \

Definition of obtuse for Students

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

Medical Dictionary


adjective ob·tuse \ äb-ˈt(y)üs, əb- \

medical Definition of obtuse

obtuser; obtusest
1 : lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect
2 : not pointed or acute
  • obtuse pain

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to beat or defeat soundly

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