adjective, quick·er, quick·est.


adverb, quick·er, quick·est.


    cut to the quick, to injure deeply; hurt the feelings of: Their callous treatment cut her to the quick.

Origin of quick

before 900; Middle English quik lively, moving, swift; Old English cwic, cwicu living; cognate with Old Saxon quik, German queck, keck, Old Norse kvikr; akin to Latin vīvus living (see vital), Sanskrit jivas living, Greek bíos life (see bio-), zoḗ animal life (see zoo-)
Related formsquick·ness, nounun·quick, adjectiveun·quick·ly, adverbun·quick·ness, noun
Can be confusedfast quick rapid swift (see synonym study at the current entry)quick quickly (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonyms for quick

1. fleet, expeditious. Quick, fast, swift, rapid describe speedy tempo. Quick applies particularly to something practically instantaneous, an action or reaction, perhaps, of very brief duration: to give a quick look around; to take a quick walk. Fast and swift refer to actions, movements, etc., that continue for a time, and usually to those that are uninterrupted; when used of communication, transportation, and the like, they suggest a definite goal and a continuous trip. Swift, the more formal word, suggests the greater speed: a fast train; a swift message. Rapid, less speedy than the others, applies to a rate of movement or action, and usually to a series of actions or movements, related or unrelated: rapid calculation; a rapid walker. 5. abrupt, curt, short, precipitate. 7. nimble, agile, brisk. 10. See sharp.

Antonyms for quick

1, 10. slow.

Usage note

The difference between the adverbial forms quick and quickly is frequently stylistic. Quick is more often used in short spoken sentences, especially imperative ones: Come quick! The chimney is on fire. Quickly is the usual form in writing, both in the preverb position ( We quickly realized that attempts to negotiate would be futile ) and following verbs other than imperatives ( She turned quickly and left ). See also slow, sure.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for cut to the quick



(of an action, movement, etc) performed or occurring during a comparatively short timea quick move
lasting a comparatively short time; briefa quick flight
accomplishing something in a time that is shorter than normala quick worker
characterized by rapidity of movement; swift or fasta quick walker
immediate or prompta quick reply
(postpositive) eager or ready to perform (an action)quick to criticize
responsive to stimulation; perceptive or alert; livelya quick eye
eager or enthusiastic for learninga quick intelligence
easily excited or arouseda quick temper
skilfully swift or nimble in one's movements or actions; deftquick fingers
  1. alive; living
  2. (as noun)living people (esp in the phrase the quick and the dead)
archaic, or dialect lively or eagera quick dog
(of a fire) burning briskly
composed of living plantsa quick hedge
dialect (of sand) lacking firmness through being wet
quick with child archaic pregnant, esp being in an advanced state of pregnancy, when the movements of the fetus can be felt


any area of living flesh that is highly sensitive to pain or touch, esp that under a toenail or fingernail or around a healing wound
the vital or most important part (of a thing)
cut someone to the quick to hurt someone's feelings deeply; offend gravely

adverb informal

in a rapid or speedy manner; swiftly
soonI hope he comes quick


a command requiring the hearer to perform an action immediately or in as short a time as possible
Derived Formsquickly, adverbquickness, noun

Word Origin for quick

Old English cwicu living; related to Old Saxon quik, Old High German queck, Old Norse kvikr alive, Latin vīvus alive, Greek bios life
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 cut to the quick



Old English cwic "living, alive, animate," and figuratively, of mental qualities, "rapid, ready," from Proto-Germanic *kwikwaz (cf. Old Saxon and Old Frisian quik, Old Norse kvikr "living, alive," Dutch kwik "lively, bright, sprightly," Old High German quec "lively," German keck "bold"), from PIE root *gweie- "to live" (see bio-). Sense of "lively, swift" developed by late 12c., on notion of "full of life."

NE swift or the now more common fast may apply to rapid motion of any duration, while in quick (in accordance with its original sense of 'live, lively') there is a notion of 'sudden' or 'soon over.' We speak of a fast horse or runner in a race, a quick starter but not a quick horse. A somewhat similar feeling may distinguish NHG schnell and rasch or it may be more a matter of local preference. [Buck]

Of persons, "mentally active," from late 15c. Also in Middle English used of soft soils, gravel pits, etc. where the ground is shifting and yielding (mid-14c., cf. quicksand). As an adverb from c.1300. To be quick about something is from 1937. Quick buck is from 1946, American English. Quick-change artist (1886) originally was an actor expert in playing different roles in the same performance of a show. Quick-witted is from 1520s.



"living persons," Old English cwic, from quick (adj.); frequently paired with the dead, e.g. Old English cwicum & deadum. The quick "tender part of the flesh" (under a nail, etc.) is from 1520s, as is the figurative use of it.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cut to the quick in Medicine




Sensitive or raw exposed flesh, as under the fingernails.


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

Idioms and Phrases with cut to the quick

cut to the quick

Deeply wound or distress, as in His criticism cut her to the quick. This phrase uses the quick in the sense of a vital or a very sensitive part of the body, such as under the fingernails. It also appeared in such older locutions as touched to the quick, for “deeply affected,” and stung to the quick, for “wounded, distressed,” both dating from the early 1500s. The current expression was considered a cliché from about 1850 on.


In addition to the idioms beginning with quick

  • quick and the dead
  • quick as a wink
  • quick off the mark
  • quick one, a
  • quick on the draw
  • quick on the uptake

also see:

  • cut to the quick
  • (quick) on the uptake
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.