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

Other Words from obtuse

obtusely adverb
obtuseness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for obtuse



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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 comes from a Latin word meaning "dull" or "blunt." It can describe a geometric angle that is not acute or a person who is mentally "dull." In addition, obtuse can mean "hard to comprehend." That meaning is probably from confusion with the similar-sounding abstruse.

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Typically obtuse, Buzz misses a fairly important development on his fellow explorers’ adoptive planet, which is that it has been overtaken by an army of alien robots led by the hulking Zurg (James Brolin). Kyle Smith, WSJ, 16 June 2022 This was an obtuse and unpoetic diktat, a showy way to miss the fact that a song’s history—its use over time, by real people, inspired by the exigencies of ritual and action—can inform its meaning more than its mere lyrics ever could. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 15 July 2022 The relocation to Italy eliminates Barb’s already infrequent voice and temporarily replaces Ethan’s narrative perspective with that of Izzy, a tour guide whose name was foreshadowed a couple times in Ethan’s obtuse recollections. Cory Oldweiler, BostonGlobe.com, 14 July 2022 While not taking obtuse shots at J.D. Power's methods, in interviews its leadership would suggest the company's hard data, not colored by human perception or brand bias, was much more accurate than consumer surveys. Ed Garsten, Forbes, 6 June 2022 In such light, Saban’s words are perhaps more obtuse than overtly offensive. Roy S. Johnson | Rjohnson@al.com, al, 24 May 2022 Where Mungiu’s layered storytelling doesn’t quite work is in a finale so suggestive as to remain more or less obtuse, which is unfortunate because until then, R.M.N. was building toward something powerful. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 May 2022 Starting at an obtuse angle, such as 120 degrees, makes the exercise easier. Hayden Carpenter, Outside Online, 21 May 2020 There's something obtuse about someone taking a savage glee in watching psychotics brutally murder dozens of people on T.V. Anthony Venditti, CBS News, 21 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of obtuse was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

13 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Obtuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obtuse. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for obtuse


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on obtuse

Nglish: Translation of obtuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obtuse for Arabic Speakers


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