a single-shot, lever-action breechloader rifle patented in the U.S. in 1848 and adopted by the U.S. military in the 1850s.

Origin of Sharps

after Christian Sharps (1811–74), U.S. gunsmith, who invented it



adjective, sharp·er, sharp·est.

having a thin cutting edge or a fine point; well-adapted for cutting or piercing: a sharp knife.
terminating in an edge or point; not blunt or rounded: The table had sharp corners.
involving a sudden or abrupt change in direction or course: a sharp curve in the road; The car made a sharp turn.
abrupt, as an ascent: a sharp drop.
consisting of angular lines and pointed forms or of thin, long features: He had a sharp face.
clearly defined; distinct: a sharp photographic image.
distinct or marked, as a contrast: sharp differences of opinion.
pungent or biting in taste: a sharp cheese.
piercing or shrill in sound: a sharp cry.
keenly cold, as weather: a sharp, biting wind.
felt acutely; intense; distressing: sharp pain.
merciless, caustic, or harsh: sharp words.
fierce or violent: a sharp struggle.
keen or eager: sharp desire.
quick, brisk, or spirited.
alert or vigilant: They kept a sharp watch for the enemy.
mentally acute: a sharp lad.
extremely sensitive or responsive; keen: sharp vision; sharp hearing.
shrewd or astute: a sharp bargainer.
shrewd to the point of dishonesty: sharp practice.
  1. (of a tone) raised a chromatic half step in pitch: F sharp.
  2. above an intended pitch, as a note; too high (opposed to flat1def 26b).
Informal. very stylish: a sharp dresser; a sharp jacket.
Radio, Electronics. of, relating to, or responsive to a very narrow range of frequencies.Compare broadband.
Phonetics. fortis; voiceless.
composed of hard, angular grains, as sand.

verb (used with object)

Music. to raise in pitch, especially by one chromatic half step.

verb (used without object)

to sound above the true pitch.


keenly or acutely.
abruptly or suddenly: to pull a horse up sharp.
punctually: Meet me at one o'clock sharp.
vigilantly: Look sharp!
briskly; quickly.
Music. above the true pitch: You're singing a little sharp.


something sharp.
Usually sharps. a medium-length needle with a rounded eye and a sharp point, used for all-purpose hand sewing.
a sharper.
Informal. an expert.
  1. a tone one chromatic half step above a given tone.
  2. (in musical notation) the symbol ♯ indicating this.

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

Examples from the Web for sharps

Contemporary Examples of sharps

Historical Examples of sharps

  • It concerns the magistrate to defend the flats; to punish the sharps.

  • The big Sharps boomed; the saddles emptied to their booming.

    When the West Was Young

    Frederick R. Bechdolt

  • Our three were at the time "Sharps," "Upcutts," and "Bakers."

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • One accustomed to the sharps of the legal profession can do this sort of thing.

    An Outcast

    F. Colburn Adams

  • You know if it were not for the flats, how could the sharps live?

British Dictionary definitions for sharps



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 sharps



type of breech-loading single-shot rifle, 1850, from J. Christian Sharps (1811-1874), U.S. gunsmith.



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 sharps


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.