critical

adjective

crit·​i·​cal ˈkri-ti-kəl How to pronounce critical (audio)
1
a
: inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably
His critical temperament cost him several friends.
b
: consisting of or involving criticism
critical writings
also : of or relating to the judgment of critics
The play was a critical success.
c
: exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation
critical thinking
a critical commentary on the mayor's proposal
d
: including variant readings and scholarly emendations
a critical edition
2
a
: of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture
a critical phase
: such as
(1)
: relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected
also : being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death
critical care
a patient listed in critical condition
(2)
: relating to or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a definite change
critical temperature
b
: indispensable, vital
a critical waterfowl habitat
a component critical to the operation of a machine
c
: being in or approaching a state of crisis
a critical shortage
a critical situation
d
: crucial, decisive
a critical test
3
a
: of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction
used of a mass of fissionable material
a critical mass
b
: sustaining a nuclear chain reaction
The reactor went critical.
critically adverb
criticalness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for critical

critical, hypercritical, faultfinding, captious, carping, censorious mean inclined to look for and point out faults and defects.

critical may also imply an effort to see a thing clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly.

a critical essay

hypercritical suggests a tendency to judge by unreasonably strict standards.

hypercritical disparagement of other people's work

faultfinding implies a querulous or exacting temperament.

a faultfinding reviewer

captious suggests a readiness to detect trivial faults or raise objections on trivial grounds.

a captious critic

carping implies an ill-natured or perverse picking of flaws.

a carping editorial

censorious implies a disposition to be severely critical and condemnatory.

the censorious tone of the review

synonyms see in addition acute

Example Sentences

The program presents a critical analysis of the government's strategies. She has a talent for critical thinking. We need to look at these proposed changes with a critical eye before we accept them.
Recent Examples on the Web He was taken to the hospital in critical condition and underwent surgery Tuesday evening after police believe he was shot in the 1700 block of Lamont Avenue in the Oliver neighborhood. Dan Belson, Baltimore Sun, 25 Jan. 2023 The victim was then rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Caroline Silva, ajc, 25 Jan. 2023 Nichols was taken to a hospital in critical condition Jan. 7 after a he was stopped by officers from the Memphis Police Department. Lucas Finton, USA TODAY, 25 Jan. 2023 Zwerner, 25, was initially in critical condition and later stabilized before being released from the hospital after a bullet went through her hand and into her chest inside her classroom. Aya Elamroussi, CNN, 25 Jan. 2023 The final patient remains hospitalized in critical condition, a hospital official said Tuesday. Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2023 Nichols was stopped by police on Jan. 7 for alleged reckless driving and was hospitalized in critical condition after complaining of shortness of breath during the arrest. Nakylah Carter, ABC News, 24 Jan. 2023 Seven people were killed and another was hospitalized in critical condition after a deadly head-on crash near New Braunfels on Sunday evening, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Taylor Pettaway, San Antonio Express-News, 24 Jan. 2023 She was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died of her injuries. Washington Post Staff, Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

in sense "being at a turning point," from 16th-17th century cretike, criticke "at a turning point" (Middle English cretic, borrowed from Late Latin criticus "at a turning point, decisive," borrowed from Greek kritikós, taken as derivative of krísis crisis, replacing earlier krísimos) + -al entry 1; in sense "inclined to criticize, involving criticism," from critic entry 1 + -al entry 1 — more at critic entry 1

First Known Use

1556, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of critical was in 1556

Dictionary Entries Near critical

Cite this Entry

“Critical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/critical. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

critical

adjective
crit·​i·​cal ˈkrit-i-kəl How to pronounce critical (audio)
1
a
: inclined to criticize unfavorably
b
: consisting of or involving criticism or the judgments of critics
critical writings
c
: using or involving careful judgment
a critical examination of a patient
2
a
: of, relating to, or being a turning point
the critical phase of a fever
also : being at a stage of illness involving danger of death
b
: being or relating to a state or point at which a definite change occurs
the critical temperature
c
: crucial sense 1
a critical test
3
: indispensable, vital
provides critical services
4
: of big enough size to keep a chain reaction going
used of a mass of material that can go through fission
critically adverb
criticalness noun

Medical Definition

critical

adjective
crit·​i·​cal ˈkrit-i-kəl How to pronounce critical (audio)
1
a
: relating to, indicating, or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be anticipated with reasonable certainty
the critical phase of a fever
b
: being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death
critical care
a critical head injury
2
a
: of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction
used of a mass of fissionable material
b
: sustaining a chain reaction
used of a nuclear reactor
critically adverb

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