acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \
acuter; acutest

Essential Meaning of acute

1 : very serious or dangerous : requiring serious attention or action an acute [=critical, severe] fuel shortage an acute crisis the acute phase [=the most important and dangerous phase] of the struggle for independence
2 : having or showing an ability to think clearly and to understand what is not obvious or simple about something an acute observation/understanding an acute observer See More Examplesan acute sense of humor It's a politically acute film that does not oversimplify the issues.Hide
3 : very strong and sensitive : highly developed acute [=keen] hearing/vision acute awareness

Full Definition of acute

1a(1) : characterized by sharpness or severity of sudden onset acute pain
(2) : having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course acute illness
(3) : being, providing, or requiring short-term medical care (as for serious illness or traumatic injury) acute hospitals an acute patient
b : lasting a short time acute experiments
2 : ending in a sharp point: such as
a : being or forming an angle measuring less than 90 degrees an acute angle
b : composed of acute angles an acute triangle
3a of an accent mark : having the form ´
b : marked with an acute accent
c : of the variety indicated by an acute accent
4a : marked by keen discernment or intellectual perception especially of subtle distinctions an acute thinker
b : responsive to slight impressions or stimuli acute hearing
5 : felt, perceived, or experienced intensely acute distress
6 : demanding urgent attention an acute emergency

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for acute

acute, critical, crucial mean of uncertain outcome. acute stresses intensification of conditions leading to a culmination or breaking point. an acute housing shortage critical adds to acute implications of imminent change, of attendant suspense, and of decisiveness in the outcome. the war has entered a critical phase crucial suggests a dividing of the ways and often a test or trial involving the determination of a future course or direction. a crucial vote

synonyms see in addition sharp

Ways to Be Acute

For such a short and simple-looking word, acute has a rather bewildering range of meanings. It first entered the English language with a medical sense, referring to the sharpness or severity of a symptom. It retains this meaning today, but can also refer to the severity of more general matters, such as "acute embarrassment" or "an acute shortage."

Acute is also frequently used to describe less troublesome matters, such as keenness of perception ("an acute observer" or "an acute sense of smell"), a type of angle (one measuring less than 90 degrees), or the demand for urgent attention ("acute danger").

Examples of acute in a Sentence

an acute sense of humor It's a politically acute film that does not oversimplify the issues.
Recent Examples on the Web MomentMD patients can receive access to primary care, acute care, mental health services and even dental health care. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al, 5 Oct. 2021 The lack of digital money for low-income families can be particularly acute for children, Klein pointed out. Ted Knutson, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021 The issue is especially acute for Black and Latino families, many of whom have little or no credit. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 Sep. 2021 In 2019 the system reduced by almost 18% acute care hospital stays by people in the system. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 7 Sep. 2021 The 45% price cuts apply only to certain services, generally post-acute care, that don't have Medicare billing codes. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, 13 June 2021 The shortage could become more acute in areas in eastern and southern Oregon, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state. oregonlive, 24 Sep. 2021 But notwithstanding the enduring nature of this challenge, this year, the need for overcoming change resistance might be more acute than in the past several decades. Mark Murphy, Forbes, 20 Sep. 2021 Supply shortages in North Carolina have caused restaurants and bars to scramble to find popular brands, with supply shortages made more acute because of pandemic-era increases in customer demand. Mark Scolforo, USA TODAY, 18 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acute.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of acute

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for acute

Middle English, borrowed from Latin acūtus "sharpened, pointed, having a violent onset, discerning, less than 90 degrees (of an angle)," from past participle of acuere "to sharpen, rouse, stimulate," probably derived from an otherwise unattested adjective stem acū- "sharp"; akin to acū-, acus "needle," a perhaps independently derived noun; further akin to Old Church Slavic osŭtŭ "thistle," Lithuanian ãšutas "hair of a horse's tail or mane"; all going back to the Indo-European base *h2eḱ- "sharp" — more at edge entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About acute

Time Traveler for acute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near acute

acutance

acute

acute bisectrix

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for acute

Last Updated

12 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Acute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acute. Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for acute

acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \
acuter; acutest

Kids Definition of acute

1 : measuring less than 90 degrees acute angles
2 : marked by or showing an ability to understand things that are not obvious an acute observation
3 : severe, sharp acute pain
4 : developing quickly and lasting only a short time acute illness
5 : critical sense 4, urgent an acute shortage of food
6 : very strong and sensitive an acute sense of smell

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

acute

adjective
\ ə-ˈkyüt How to pronounce acute (audio) \

Medical Definition of acute

1 : sensing or perceiving accurately, clearly, effectively, or sensitively acute vision
2a : characterized by sharpness or severity of sudden onset acute pain brought on by injury an acute infection
b(1) : having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course acute illness an acute inflammation — compare chronic entry 1 sense 2a
(2) : acute care an acute hospital
c : lasting a short time acute experiments

Other Words from acute

acutely adverb
acuteness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on acute

Nglish: Translation of acute for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of acute for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!