Etymology: Middle English, from Latin acutus, past participle of acuere to sharpen, from acus needle; akin to Latin acer sharp — more at edge
Date: 14th century
(1) characterized by sharpness or severity <acute pain> (2) having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course <acute disease> (3) being, providing, or requiring short-term medical care (as for serious illness or traumatic injury) <acute hospitals> <an acute patient> b. lasting a short time <acute experiments> 2. ending in a sharp point: as a. being or forming an angle measuring less than 90 degrees <an acute angle> b. composed of acute angles <an acute triangle> 3. a. of an accent mark having the form ˊ b. marked with an acute accent c. of the variety indicated by an acute accent 4. a. marked by keen discernment or intellectual perception especially of subtle distinctions ; penetrating <an acute thinker> b. responsive to slight impressions or stimuli <acute hearing> 5. felt, perceived, or experienced intensely <acute distress> 6. seriously demanding urgent attention <an acute emergency> • acutely adverb • acuteness noun Synonyms: acute, critical, crucial mean of uncertain outcome. acute stresses intensification of conditions leading to a culmination or breaking point <an acute housing shortage>. critical adds to acute implications of imminent change, of attendant suspense, and of decisiveness in the outcome <the war has entered a critical phase>. crucial suggests a dividing of the ways and often a test or trial involving the determination of a future course or direction <a crucial vote>. Synonym: see in addition sharp.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.