[ krit-i-kuhl ]
See synonyms for: criticalcriticalitycriticallycriticalness on

  1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily: Parents who are too critical make their children anxious.

  2. involving criticism, or skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.:The article provides a critical analysis of the Gulf War.

  1. occupied with or skilled in criticism: She was one of the great critical journalists of the 20th century.

  2. of or relating to critics or criticism, especially of literature, film, music, etc.: Critical appreciation of this author’s work has peaked in recent years.

  3. providing textual variants, proposed emendations, etc.: The library has a new critical edition of Chaucer.

  4. of the nature of a crisis; threatening a seriously bad outcome; grave: There was a critical shortage of food.

  5. of decisive importance with respect to the outcome; crucial: The nation is facing a critical moment in its history.

  6. essential; indispensable: Cocoa butter is a critical ingredient in chocolate.

  7. Medicine/Medical. having unstable and abnormal vital signs and other unfavorable indicators, as loss of appetite, poor mobility, or unconsciousness:The patient has been upgraded from critical to stable.

  8. Physics.

    • pertaining to a state, value, or quantity at which one or more properties of a substance or system undergo a change: The critical temperature of benzene is 289° C.

    • (of fissionable material) having enough mass to sustain a chain reaction: They told us about a lab where some plutonium went critical.

Origin of critical

First recorded in 1580–90; critic + -al1

Other words for critical

Other words from critical

  • crit·i·cal·ly, adverb
  • crit·i·cal·i·ty [-krit-i-kal-i-tee], / ˌkrɪt ɪˈkæl ɪ ti/, crit·i·cal·ness, noun
  • an·ti·crit·i·cal, adjective
  • non·crit·i·cal, adjective
  • pseu·do·crit·i·cal, adjective

Words Nearby critical Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use critical in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for critical


/ (ˈkrɪtɪkəl) /

  1. containing or making severe or negative judgments

  2. containing careful or analytical evaluations: a critical dissertation

  1. of or involving a critic or criticism

  2. of or forming a crisis; crucial; decisive: a critical operation

  3. urgently needed: critical medical supplies

  4. informal so seriously injured or ill as to be in danger of dying

  5. physics of, denoting, or concerned with a state in which the properties of a system undergo an abrupt change: a critical temperature

  6. go critical (of a nuclear power station or reactor) to reach a state in which a nuclear-fission chain reaction becomes self-sustaining

Derived forms of critical

  • critically, adverb
  • criticalness, noun

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