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[uh-kyoot] /əˈkyut/
sharp or severe in effect; intense:
acute sorrow; an acute pain.
extremely great or serious; crucial; critical:
an acute shortage of oil.
(of disease) brief and severe (opposed to chronic).
sharp or penetrating in intellect, insight, or perception:
an acute observer.
extremely sensitive even to slight details or impressions:
acute eyesight.
sharp at the end; ending in a point.
  1. (of an angle) less than 90°.
  2. (of a triangle) containing only acute angles.
consisting of, indicated by, or bearing the mark ´, placed over vowel symbols in some languages to show that the vowels or the syllables they are in are pronounced in a certain way, as in French that the quality of an e so marked is close; in Hungarian that the vowel is long; in Spanish that the marked syllable bears the word accent; in Ibo that it is pronounced with high tones; or in classical Greek, where the mark originated, that the syllable bears the word accent and is pronounced, according to the ancient grammarians, with raised pitch (opposed to grave):
the acute accent; an acute e.
the acute accent.
Origin of acute
1560-70; < Latin acūtus sharpened, past participle of acuere (acū-, v. stem, akin to acus needle, ācer sharp + -tus past participle suffix)
Related forms
acutely, adverb
acuteness, noun
hyperacute, adjective
hyperacutely, adverb
hyperacuteness, noun
nonacute, adjective
nonacutely, adverb
nonacuteness, noun
overacute, adjective
overacutely, adverb
overacuteness, noun
superacute, adjective
superacutely, adverb
superacuteness, noun
Can be confused
acute, chronic.
3. sudden, distressing, violent. 4. keen, astute, discerning, perceptive, intelligent, perspicacious; sharp-witted, clever, smart, bright, ingenious, brilliant; knowing, wise, sage, sagacious, sapient. 5. keen.
1, 4, 5. dull.
Synonym Study
4.Acute, penetrating, shrewd imply a keenness of understanding, perception, or insight. Acute suggests particularly a clearness of perception and a realization of related meanings: an acute intellect. Penetrating adds the idea of depth of perception and a realization of implications: a wise and penetrating judgment. Shrewd adds the idea of knowing how to apply practically (or to one's own advantage) what one perceives and understands: wary and shrewd. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for acute
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His sufferings were so acute that a minute examination of his injuries could not be made.

    The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook
  • With acute precipitancy he was separated from the currency that had come to him.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • She had been ill with acute rheumatism in all her limbs for the last thirteen months.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • For a moment an acute chill of horror rooted Pierre to the spot.

  • At the bottom of the falls the river turns an acute angle and flows to the west.

    One Day's Courtship Robert Barr
British Dictionary definitions for acute


penetrating in perception or insight
sensitive to details; keen
of extreme importance; crucial
sharp or severe; intense: acute pain, an acute drought
having a sharp end or point
  1. (of an angle) less than 90°
  2. (of a triangle) having all its interior angles less than 90°
(of a disease)
  1. arising suddenly and manifesting intense severity
  2. of relatively short duration Compare chronic (sense 2)
  1. (of a vowel or syllable in some languages with a pitch accent, such as ancient Greek) spoken or sung on a higher musical pitch relative to neighbouring syllables or vowels
  2. of or relating to an accent (´) placed over vowels, denoting that the vowel is pronounced with higher musical pitch (as in ancient Greek), with a certain special quality (as in French), etc Compare (for senses 8a, 8b) grave, circumflex
(of a hospital, hospital bed, or ward) intended to accommodate short-term patients with acute illnesses
an acute accent
Derived Forms
acutely, adverb
acuteness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin acūtus, past participle of acuere to sharpen, from acus needle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for acute

late 14c., originally of fevers and diseases, "coming and going quickly" (opposed to a chronic), from Latin acutus "sharp, pointed," figuratively "shrill, penetrating; intelligent, cunning," past participle of acuere "sharpen" (see acuity). Meaning "sharp, irritating" is from early 15c. Meaning "intense" is from 1727. Related: Acutely; acuteness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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acute in Medicine

acute a·cute (ə-kyōōt')

  1. Pointed at the end; sharp.

  2. Of or relating to a disease or a condition with a rapid onset and a short, severe course.

  3. Of or relating to a patient afflicted with such a disease.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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acute in Science
  1. Reacting readily to stimuli or impressions, as hearing or eyesight; sensitive.

  2. Relating to an illness that has a rapid onset and follows a short but severe course. Compare chronic.

  3. Having an acute angle.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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