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 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 The scandal had played out in all the newspapers, in which Wright came off as obtuse and entitled, if not morally bankrupt. John Glassie, Washington Post, "A look at the forces — and tragedies — that shaped Frank Lloyd Wright," 4 Oct. 2019 The automaker just pointed us to an obtuse privacy policy. Washington Post, "What does your car know about you? We hacked a Chevy to find out.," 17 Dec. 2019 That is part of the appeal, for some, to make sports an obtuse distraction from reality, but any suggestion that sports used to be uncoupled from culture and politics is myth. John Branch, New York Times, "The League They Told You Not to Worry About," 2 Oct. 2019 CarPlay, in any form, makes the default menu systems in every modern car feel obtuse and lethargic. Alexander George, Popular Mechanics, "Why It's a Good Idea To Make Your Car More Like Your Phone," 20 Oct. 2019 In the scheme of Almodóvar’s rich catalogue, Pain is probably too small, too sad, and too obtuse to really recommend as any kind of starting point. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Pedro Almodóvar looks at a director's life in the lovely autobiographical drama Pain and Glory," 27 Sep. 2019 Indeed, three episodes in, The Mandalorian seems intentionally obtuse with regards to the expectations of its audience in terms of speed. Graeme Mcmillan, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Mandalorian' and the Slower Pace of 'Star Wars'," 22 Nov. 2019

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

21 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 4 Apr. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on obtuse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obtuse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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