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[uh b-toos, -tyoos] /əbˈtus, -ˈtyus/
not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect; not sensitive or observant; dull.
not sharp, acute, or pointed; blunt in form.
(of a leaf, petal, etc.) rounded at the extremity.
indistinctly felt or perceived, as pain or sound.
Origin of obtuse
1500-10; < Latin obtūsus dulled (past participle of obtundere), equivalent to ob- ob- + tūd-, variant stem of tundere to beat + -tus past participle suffix, with dt > s
Related forms
obtusely, adverb
obtuseness, noun
subobtuse, adjective
subobtusely, adverb
subobtuseness, noun
Can be confused
abstruse, obtuse.
1. unfeeling, tactless, insensitive; blind, imperceptive, unobservant; gauche, boorish; slow, dim. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for obtuseness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My besetting fear was that I couldn't count on her obtuseness.

    The Greater Inclination Edith Wharton
  • We had not, however, taken into account the obtuseness of a barbaric despot.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • As soon as he had taken up a business, his obtuseness vanished.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • Oswald marveled at the obtuseness of this eminent barrister.

    Oswald Langdon Carson Jay Lee
  • Besides, that one particular area of obtuseness was a real part of his charm.

    Masters of Space Edward Elmer Smith
  • He spat out the words with unspeakable impatience at my obtuseness.

    Lords of the North A. C. Laut
  • He thus shows his obtuseness, or his subordination to a higher power.

    Welsh Folk-Lore Elias Owen
  • It is from neglect to open our hearts to Nature, that obtuseness comes.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • Affectation is worse than obtuseness, for obtuseness is at least honest: it may mend its ways.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
British Dictionary definitions for obtuseness


mentally slow or emotionally insensitive
  1. (of an angle) lying between 90° and 180°
  2. (of a triangle) having one interior angle greater than 90°
not sharp or pointed
indistinctly felt, heard, etc; dull: obtuse pain
(of a leaf or similar flat part) having a rounded or blunt tip
Derived Forms
obtusely, adverb
obtuseness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin obtūsus dulled, past participle of obtundere to beat down; see obtund
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 obtuseness



early 15c., "dull, blunted," from Middle French obtus (fem. obtuse), from Latin obtusus "blunted, dull," also used figuratively, past participle of obtundere "to beat against, make dull," from ob "against" (see ob-) + tundere "to beat," from PIE *(s)tud-e- "to beat, strike, push, thrust," from root *(s)teu- "to push, stick, knock, beat" (cf. Latin tudes "hammer," Sanskrit tudati "he thrusts"). Sense of "stupid" is first found c.1500. Related: Obtusely; obtuseness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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obtuseness in Medicine

obtuse ob·tuse (ŏb-tōōs', -tyōōs', əb-)

  1. Lacking quickness of perception or intellect.

  2. Not sharp or acute; blunt.

ob·tuse'ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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