Acute Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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From angles to severe and sudden conditions, acute pops up plenty of places — but what does it mean?

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the word acute, including its definition, origin, synonyms, antonyms, and more. If you’ve ever been curious about the meaning behind acute — keep reading. 

What Is the Definition of Acute?

Believe it or not, the word acute has more than one meaning. Yup, it’s true — here are some of the best-known definitions of acute:

  • According to the Collins Dictionary, you can use our word of the day to indicate that an undesirable situation or feeling is very intense.
  • When used in the medical world, an acute condition is one with a severe and sudden onset.  
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines acute as something with a narrowly pointed and sharp end or an angle that is less than 90 degrees. When used as a noun, acute is also short for acute accent.

As you can see, our word of the day can be used in a number of different ways — hence why it’s of the utmost importance to pick up on context clues when coming across “acute” to decipher which variation is being used.  

What Is the Etymology of Acute?

The history behind our word of the day is a bit fuzzy, but it apparently entered the English language during the sixteenth century. It came from the Latin root acūtus, meaning “sharp” or “pointed.”  

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Acute?

When you want to describe something as sharp or extremely serious, you can use the word acute — but our word of the day isn’t the only term you can use. Let’s explore some alternatives.

Synonyms of acute include:

  • Intense
  • On your toes
  • Not missing a tick
  • Quick-witted
  • Without discussion
  • On the spot
  • Quick off the mark
  • Fierce
  • Heavy duty 
  • Short-lived 
  • Momentary
  • Fleeting 
  • Rapier like
  • On the ball
  • Listening carefully
  • Wide awake
  • On the qui vive
  • Overpowering 
  • Dreadful
  • Finely tuned
  • Razor-sharp
  • Well-honed
  • On the job
  • Argus-eyed 
  • Well rounded
  • Fully developed 
  • Shard edged 
  • Quick on the uptake
  • Whip-smart
  • Sharp-witted 
  • Poignant 
  • Without hesitation 
  • Short lasting
  • Heightened 
  • Critical
  • Without formality 
  • Long headed 
  • Short term
  • Dreadful
  • Dire
  • Serious
  • Short and sharp
  • Sudden
  • Life-threatening 
  • Deep
  • All important 
  • Extreme 
  • Life and death

If you want to describe something that is opposite in meaning to our word of the day, an antonym would be appropriate. Antonyms of acute include:

  • Dull 
  • Light
  • Mild
  • Minimal 
  • Inconsequential
  • Meager 
  • Tender
  • Negligible
  • Modest
  • Superficial 
  • Vague
  • Trivial 
  • Irrelevant 
  • Dispensable
  • Petty
  • Little
  • Small
  • Incidental
  • Petty
  • Chronic
  • Persistent
  • Dimwitted 
  • Daft 
  • Brainless
  • Dumb 
  • Simple-minded
  • Half witted 
  • Lamebrain
  • Doltish
  • Thick 
  • Feeble 
  • Shoddy
  • Impaired
  • Damaged
  • Buggy
  • Not working 
  • Thick witted 

How Can You Use Acute in a Sentence?

By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of what our word of the day means, but do you know how to use it in a sentence? 

Not to worry — we compiled a list of example sentences for you to review:

“Tommy had acute appendicitis and was rushed into surgery.”

“Did you know that dogs have an acute sense of smell?”

“After learning that he had an acute disease, John made major changes to his health.”

“I overheard my boss say that an acute shortage of experienced staff is undermining our company’s growth.”

“Not to get confused with an obtuse angle, an acute angle is one with a sharp point.”

“We learned about acute angles in math class today!”

“Unfortunately, not all medical facilities can provide acute care.”

“If you experience any acute pain in addition to a fever or any vomiting, it’s important that you get to the hospital immediately.”

“If your illness had a rapid onset and follows a severe course, it is acute.”

“The health care professional works in acute care.”

“We have a lot of acute patients in our critical care unit today.”

“The report caused acute embarrassment to the company.”

“Suzie has acute hearing, but terrible eyesight.”

What Are Translations of Acute?

Seeing as the word acute has been around since the sixteenth century, it’s not surprising that there is more than one way to say it. Some of the most common translations of acute include:

  • Chinese (traditional) — 極度的, 十分嚴重的, (病痛)急性的
  • Portuguese — agudo, grave, sério/-ia (masculine-feminine)
  • Danish — akut, skarpsindig, fin
  • Russian — острый, тонкий
  • Indonesian — akut, gawat, cerdas
  • Thai — ฉับพลัน, รุนแรง, มีไหวพริบดี
  • Norwegian — akutt, skarp, alvorlig
  • Italian — acuto, grave, acuta
  • Vietnamese — cấp tính, lớn, nhạy bén
  • Czech — akutní, kritický, bystrý
  • Japanese — 深刻な, (痛みが)激しい, (病気が)急性の
  • Turkish — şiddetli, çok fazla, akut
  • French — aigu/-uë, grave, aigu
  • Ukrainian — гострий, кмітливий, тямущий
  • German — akut, scharfsinnig, scharf
  • Korean — 심각한
  • Polish — ostry, dotkliwy, przenikliwy
  • Catalan — greu, seriós
  • Arabic — شَديد, خَطير
  • Malay — genting, amat sangat, tajam pemikiran
  • Spanish — serio, agudo/da (masculine-feminine), grave (masculine-feminine)


Our word of the day can be a little tricky to understand because it can be used in a number of different ways. For example, you may use the word acute when referring to a disease or its symptoms of short duration that is typically severe. Acute can also be used in math when referring to an angle that measures less than 90 degrees — such as a right angle. 

In addition, acute can be characterized by sharpness and is often defined as something that is very extreme or being pointed. 

We hope our guide has provided you with everything you need to truly understand the meaning behind the word acute. To discover more terms and their definitions, check out our website, where you’ll also find informative blogs, helpful grammar tips, and more. 


Acute:  definition | Cambridge English Dictionary

Acute definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

Acute English Definition and Meaning |