a. of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture <a critical phase>: as (1) relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected; also being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death <critical care> <a patient listed in critical condition> (2) relating to or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a definite change <critical temperature> b. crucial, decisive <a critical test> c. indispensable, vital <a critical waterfowl habitat> < d. being in or approaching a state of crisis <a critical shortage> <a critical situation> 2. a. inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably b. consisting of or involving criticism <critical writings>; also of or relating to the judgment of critics <the play was a critical success> c. exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation <critical thinking> d. including variant readings and scholarly emendations <a critical edition> 3. a. of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction — used of a mass of fissionable material <a critical mass> b. sustaining a nuclear chain reaction <the reactor went critical> • criticality noun • critically adverb • criticalness noun Synonyms: critical, hypercritical, faultfinding, captious, carping, censorious mean inclined to look for and point out faults and defects. critical may also imply an effort to see a thing clearly and truly in order to judge it fairly <a critical essay>. hypercritical suggests a tendency to judge by unreasonably strict standards <hypercritical disparagement of other people's work>. faultfinding implies a querulous or exacting temperament <a faultfinding reviewer>. captious suggests a readiness to detect trivial faults or raise objections on trivial grounds <a captious critic>. carping implies an ill-natured or perverse picking of flaws <a carping editorial>. censorious implies a disposition to be severely critical and condemnatory <the censorious tone of the review>. Synonym: see in addition acute.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.