tren·chant | \ˈtren-chənt \

Definition of trenchant 

1 : keen, sharp

2 : vigorously effective and articulate a trenchant analysis also : caustic trenchant remarks

3a : sharply perceptive : penetrating a trenchant view of current conditions

b : clear-cut, distinct the trenchant divisions between right and wrong— Edith Wharton

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Other Words from trenchant

trenchantly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for trenchant


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


blunt, blunted, dull, dulled, obtuse

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Did You Know?

The word trenchant comes from the Anglo-French verb trencher, meaning "to cut," and may ultimately derive from the Vulgar Latin trinicare, meaning "to cut in three." Hence, a trenchant sword is one with a keen edge; a trenchant remark is one that cuts deep; and a trenchant observation is one that cuts to the heart of the matter. Relatives of trenchant in English include the noun trench ("a long ditch cut into the ground") and the verb retrench ("to cut down or pare away" or "to cut down expenses").

Examples of trenchant in a Sentence

a writer with a trenchant wit even the most trenchant sword could not sever the bonds of loyalty between them

Recent Examples on the Web

The scene disturbs for the same reason Lift’s character is such an eerie villain: Even with all its bizarre elements, the central tension of Lift’s arc reflects trenchant concerns. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Has an Eerily Familiar Villain," 10 July 2018 That’s when things go from trenchant to deeply weird. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Is Fizzy, Flawed, and Fascinating," 6 July 2018 Each story is a trenchant exploration of race and class, vividly conveying the tension between social codes of masculinity and the vulnerable, volatile self. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 24 June 2018 By Adam Rutherford In witty, trenchant prose, Rutherford lays out the complexity of the genome and the wonder of possibilities buried within it. Sarah Mupo, STAT, "The 39 best health and science books to read this summer," 25 June 2018 History is a mosaic of individual accounts of past events — not necessarily the most trenchant or authoritative accounts, but simply the ones that archivists could find. Alex Kingsbury,, "You’ve got mail — for now," 10 May 2018 And there's no denying that Apostolina has a real flair for naturalistic dialogue and darkly trenchant humor. F. Kathleen Foley,, "In Atwater, a dark secret at the center of 'Forever Bound'," 25 May 2018 Installing them near the works of Tomah, Bridges, and Cayard brings their trenchant message home. Cate Mcquaid,, "Old and new meet at Portland Museum of Art Biennial," 19 Apr. 2018 Warnock’s speech warmed up the faithful with laughs, often followed up later by trenchant criticism. Christina Tkacik,, "Pastor of MLK's former church discusses King's legacy at interfaith event in Baltimore," 13 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'trenchant.' 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 trenchant

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for trenchant

Middle English trenchaunt, from Anglo-French, present participle of trencher

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Time Traveler for trenchant

The first known use of trenchant was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of trenchant

: very strong, clear, and effective

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a generally accepted meaning of a word

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