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  1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.
  2. occupied with or skilled in criticism.
  3. involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.; judicial: a critical analysis.
  4. of or relating to critics or criticism: critical essays.
  5. providing textual variants, proposed emendations, etc.: a critical edition of Chaucer.
  6. pertaining to or of the nature of a crisis: a critical shortage of food.
  7. of decisive importance with respect to the outcome; crucial: a critical moment.
  8. of essential importance; indispensable: a critical ingredient.
  9. Medicine/Medical. (of a patient's condition) having unstable and abnormal vital signs and other unfavorable indicators, as loss of appetite, poor mobility, or unconsciousness.
  10. Physics.
    1. pertaining to a state, value, or quantity at which one or more properties of a substance or system undergo a change.
    2. (of fissionable material) having enough mass to sustain a chain reaction.

Origin of critical

First recorded in 1580–90; critic + -al1
Related formscrit·i·cal·ly, adverbcrit·i·cal·i·ty, crit·i·cal·ness, nounan·ti·crit·i·cal, adjectivean·ti·crit·i·cal·ly, adverban·ti·crit·i·cal·ness, nounhalf-crit·i·cal, adjectivehalf-crit·i·cal·ly, adverbhalf-crit·i·cal·ness, nounnon·crit·i·cal, adjectivenon·crit·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·crit·i·cal·ness, nounpost·crit·i·cal, adjectivepseu·do·crit·i·cal, adjectivepseu·do·crit·i·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-crit·i·cal, adjectivequa·si-crit·i·cal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for critical

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for critical

Contemporary Examples of critical

Historical Examples of critical

British Dictionary definitions for critical


  1. containing or making severe or negative judgments
  2. containing careful or analytical evaluationsa critical dissertation
  3. of or involving a critic or criticism
  4. of or forming a crisis; crucial; decisivea critical operation
  5. urgently neededcritical medical supplies
  6. informal so seriously injured or ill as to be in danger of dying
  7. physics of, denoting, or concerned with a state in which the properties of a system undergo an abrupt changea critical temperature
  8. go critical (of a nuclear power station or reactor) to reach a state in which a nuclear-fission chain reaction becomes self-sustaining
Derived Formscritically, adverbcriticalness, 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

Word Origin and History for critical

1580s, "censorious," from critic + -al (1). Meaning "pertaining to criticism" is from 1741; medical sense is from c.1600; meaning "of the nature of a crisis" is from 1640s; that of "crucial" is from 1841, from the "decisive" sense in Latin criticus. Related: Criticality (1756; in the nuclear sense, 1950); critically (1650s, "accurately;" 1815, "in a critical situation"). In nuclear science, critical mass is attested from 1940.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

critical in Medicine


  1. Of or relating to a medical crisis.
  2. Being or relating to a grave physical condition especially of a patient.
  3. Of or relating to the value of a measurement, such as temperature, at which an abrupt change in a chemical of physical quality, property, or state occurs.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.