Origin of sharp

before 900; (adj.) Middle English; Old English scearp; cognate with German scharf; akin to Irish cearb a cut (noun), keen (adj.); (adv.) Middle English; Old English scearpe, derivative of the adj.; (noun) Middle English, derivative of the adj.; (v.) derivative of the adj.
Related formssharp·ly, adverbsharp·ness, nouno·ver·sharp, adjectivesu·per·sharp, adjectiveul·tra·sharp, adjectiveun·sharp, adjectiveun·sharp·ly, adverbun·sharp·ness, nounun·sharped, adjectiveun·sharp·ing, adjective

Synonyms for sharp

1. Sharp, keen refer to the edge or point of an instrument, tool, and the like. Sharp applies, in general, to a cutting edge or a point capable of piercing: a sharp knife; a sharp point. Keen is usually applied to sharp edges: a keen sword blade. 6. clear. 8. acrid, bitter, piquant, sour. 10. piercing, nipping, biting. 11. severe, excruciating. 12. unmerciful, cutting, acid, acrimonious, pointed, biting. 16. attentive. 17. clever, discriminating, discerning, perspicacious. As applied to mental qualities, sharp, keen, intelligent, quick have varying implications. Sharp suggests an acute, sensitive, alert, penetrating quality: a sharp mind. Keen implies observant, incisive, and vigorous: a keen intellect. Intelligent means not only acute, alert, and active, but also able to reason and understand: an intelligent reader. Quick suggests lively and rapid comprehension, prompt response to instruction, and the like: quick at figures. 20. shady, deceitful.

Antonyms for sharp

1. dull.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sharpness

keenness, polish, bite, sting, incisiveness, honing

Examples from the Web for sharpness

Historical Examples of sharpness

  • "There is no flattery in that remark," answered Billy, with a touch of sharpness.

  • "We ask no service of you, sir," said Ruth, her voice a sword of sharpness.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

  • She said, with some sharpness, "I know nothing of Mr Boswell."

    James Boswell

    William Keith Leask

  • It was a sudden change of pace, due mainly to the sharpness of the turn.

    The Fiery Totem

    Argyll Saxby

  • His sole virtue is his obscurity, the sharpness of his bones his only protection.

    Mixed Faces

    Roy Norton

British Dictionary definitions for sharpness



Cecil (James). 1859–1924, British musician, best known for collecting, editing, and publishing English folk songs



having a keen edge suitable for cutting
having an edge or point; not rounded or blunt
involving a sudden change, esp in directiona sharp bend
moving, acting, or reacting quickly, efficiently, etcsharp reflexes
clearly defined
mentally acute; clever; astute
sly or artful; clever in an underhand waysharp practice
bitter or harshsharp words
shrill or penetratinga sharp cry
having an acrid taste
keen; bitinga sharp wind; sharp pain
  1. (immediately postpositive)denoting a note that has been raised in pitch by one chromatic semitoneB sharp
  2. (of an instrument, voice, etc) out of tune by being or tending to be too high in pitchCompare flat 1 (def. 23)
phonetics a less common word for fortis
  1. stylish
  2. too smart
at the sharp end involved in the area of any activity where there is most difficulty, competition, danger, etc


in a sharp manner
exactlysix o'clock sharp
  1. higher than a standard pitch
  2. out of tune by being or tending to be too high in pitchshe sings sharp Compare flat 1 (def. 29)


  1. an accidental that raises the pitch of the following note by one chromatic semitoneUsual symbol:
  2. a note affected by this accidentalCompare flat 1 (def. 35)
a thin needle with a sharp point
informal a sharper
(usually plural) any medical instrument with sharp point or edge, esp a hypodermic needle


(tr) music, US and Canadian to raise the pitch of (a note), esp by one chromatic semitoneUsual equivalent in Britain and certain other countries): sharpen


Southern African slang an exclamation of full agreement or approval
Derived Formssharply, adverbsharpness, noun

Word Origin for sharp

Old English scearp; related to Old Norse skarpr, Old High German scarpf, Old Irish cerb, Lettish skarbs
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 sharpness

Old English scearpnis; see sharp (adj.) + -ness.



Old English scearp "having a cutting edge; pointed; intellectually acute, active, shrewd; keen (of senses); severe; biting, bitter (of tastes)," from Proto-Germanic *skarpaz, literally "cutting" (cf. Old Saxon scarp, Old Norse skarpr, Old Frisian skerp, Dutch scherp, German scharf "sharp"), from PIE *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (cf. Lettish skarbs "sharp," Middle Irish cerb "cutting;" see shear).

The figurative meaning "acute or penetrating in intellect or perception" was in Old English; hence "keenly alive to one's own interests, quick to take advantage" (1690s). Of words or talk, "cutting, sarcastic," from early 13c. Meaning "distinct in contour" is from 1670s. The adverbial meaning "abruptly" is from 1836; that of "promptly" is first attested 1840. The musical meaning "half step above (a given tone)" is from 1570s. Meaning "stylish" is from 1944, hepster slang, from earlier general slang sense of "excellent" (1940). Phrase sharp as a tack first recorded 1912 (sharp as a needle has been around since Old English). Sharp-shinned attested from 1704 of persons, 1813 of hawks.



"a cheat at games," 1797, short for sharper (1680s) in this sense. Meaning "expert, connoisseur" is attested from 1840, and likely is from sharp (adj.). Music sense is from 1570s. The noun was used 14c. as "a sharp weapon, edge of a sword."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with sharpness


In addition to the idioms beginning with sharp

  • sharp as a tack
  • sharp practice

also see:

  • keep an eye (a sharp lookout) for
  • look sharp
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.