Definition of acute in US English:



  • 1(of a bad, difficult, or unwelcome situation or phenomenon) present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.

    ‘an acute housing shortage’
    ‘the problem is acute and getting worse’
    • ‘The Army continues to suffer acute shortages of staff and experienced personnel, and that is where the problem is.’
    • ‘The situation is particularly acute given the region's 30% increase in births in the last two years.’
    • ‘The situation is rather acute among blue-collar immigrants who migrate to the United States.’
    • ‘The situation is particularly acute in certain cities - often the very ones that were a little slice of heaven in the 1990s.’
    • ‘In London, the housing crisis is very acute, there is a desperate shortage of social housing and with house prices so unreachable for the majority, few people are able to buy.’
    • ‘An acute shortage of respite facilities for autistic children is forcing families to put children into residential care.’
    • ‘The situation is particularly acute in Dublin and in areas classified as disadvantaged.’
    • ‘In several villages and towns dotting the district, acute shortage of potable water has turned into an alarming situation.’
    • ‘The Simon Community, which runs a network of centres around the country for homeless people, is also experiencing acute shortages of volunteers.’
    • ‘There is an acute shortage of housing in Colchester and a great need for first time buyers to get on the ladder.’
    • ‘An acute shortage of experienced staff is undermining growth, says Wong.’
    • ‘Drought-like situation prevails in the district due to acute shortage of water and extended power cuts triggered by delay in the monsoon.’
    • ‘It points out that stations where the situation is particularly acute include Crewe, Preston and Carlisle, but the situation is also serious at Oxenholme.’
    • ‘Plunged into darkness, practically all of Serbia has been dealing with an acute electricity shortage as generation plants under perform.’
    • ‘One issue that all the various groups on East Riding of Yorkshire Council agree on is the acute shortage of affordable housing throughout the region.’
    • ‘In some areas the situation is particularly acute and the problems are only going to get worse.’
    • ‘Currently, American businesses are experiencing acute shortages of highly skilled IT professionals.’
    • ‘In the present scenario, where acute water shortage has become a reality, it is not right to pass the burden on to the people.’
    • ‘While the cut in interest rates should alleviate some of the most acute pressures facing the economy, the UK economic climate has worsened and we are facing new dangers.’
    • ‘Although local doctors have been warning of an acute shortage of intensive care beds for children, the Department of Health said it did not believe there was a crisis.’
    severe, critical, drastic, dire, dreadful, terrible, awful, grave, bad, serious, profound
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    1. 1.1 (of a disease or its symptoms) of short duration but typically severe.
      ‘acute appendicitis’
      Often contrasted with chronic
      • ‘Appropriate treatment controls acute symptoms and reduces the risk of longer term complications.’
      • ‘In 1965 the focus of care for elderly people was primarily on hospital care for acute illnesses and diseases.’
      • ‘The discovery of antibiotic drugs has been helpful in treating acute infection associated with chronic bronchitis.’
      • ‘This term indicates an acute disease of such severity that immediate surgical intervention must be considered.’
      • ‘This bronchodilator inhaler is used at the discretion of the student for acute symptoms of asthma.’
      • ‘Infections with bacteria or viruses can give rise to an acute inflammation of a joint (septic arthritis).’
      • ‘Kayser-Jones defined acute illness in the nursing home as a change in health, with specific signs and symptoms of recent onset.’
      • ‘Acute dysentery, typhoid fever and acute hepatitis were the next three most frequently reported diseases.’
      • ‘He said that since the disease broke out, the hospital had treated symptoms like acute diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration.’
      • ‘Multiple medications are available to stabilize acute symptoms of bipolar disorder.’
      • ‘TB pleural effusion usually presents as an acute illness and the symptom duration ranges from a few days to few weeks.’
      • ‘Bacterial infection can cause acute arthritis with inflammation, which constitutes an emergency.’
      • ‘In recent years, there has been increased use of dipstick tests for rapid screening and diagnosis of acute malaria in rural endemic areas.’
      • ‘Symptoms of acute disease resolve by one to three months, although some persons have prolonged fatigue.’
      • ‘The most severe stages of acute asthma are respiratory failure, cardiopulmonary arrest, and death.’
      • ‘Heliox is a unique therapy for acute asthma because it decreases airway resistance without changing the diameter of the airway.’
      • ‘Therapy has two goals - to treat the acute disease flare-ups and to maintain remission.’
      • ‘None had acute disease such as other types of infection, heart failure or stroke during the study period.’
      • ‘This plant is useful for both acute and chronic respiratory diseases, including acute influenza, earache, sinusitis and sore throat.’
      • ‘The other more virulent form of the disease is found in Southern and Eastern Africa and causes a more acute infection, with symptoms showing after only a few weeks.’
      stabbing, shooting, penetrating, piercing, sharp, keen, racking, searing, burning, consuming
      severe, intense, short-lasting
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    2. 1.2 Denoting or designed for patients with acute conditions.
      ‘acute patients’
      ‘acute hospital services’
      • ‘It also said that nursing homes should be used to allow patients be discharged from acute hospitals.’
      • ‘He highlighted that Waterford Regional is an acute hospital with patients often having an average stay of five or six days.’
      • ‘Money is better off being spent to care for people in their own homes and in the community rather than being spent on hi-tech services and acute beds in hospitals.’
      • ‘Twenty-four of the dead had been patients of a long-term acute care facility.’
      • ‘She was kept in the acute patients' ward under observation.’
      • ‘In the course of its review, one hospital said it was not uncommon for an acute medical patient to have to wait four or five days before treatment even began.’
      • ‘Just after the operation, Mr Waters said he remembered lying on a bed next to Sam in the hospital's acute ward, then looking over and seeing a strange, weak smile on Sam's face.’
      • ‘Fines will be imposed on councils when a patient remains in an acute hospital bed after they have been deemed fit to be discharged to their own home or to a care home.’
      • ‘If the plans go ahead relatives and friends of acute patients from North Norfolk face a potential round trip of 60 miles to visit.’
      • ‘Once the patient leaves the acute hospital, they may be transferred to a rehabilitation unit where they can get more intensive therapy.’
      • ‘They said up to 20% of patients cannot be discharged from acute hospitals because there is nowhere to send them and this must be addressed.’
      • ‘However, since then, patients needing urgent acute surgical care have had to travel 15 miles to the nearest hospital in Cashel.’
      • ‘However, there are no acute beds for those patients.’
      • ‘There will be more beds, despite the staffing difficulties, but at the moment what is clogging up the system is long-term patients in acute beds.’
      • ‘The report, expected to be officially launched next month, will see the controversial redistribution and slimming down of acute hospital services.’
      • ‘Both inpatient costs and total costs were significantly higher for nurse led inpatient care compared with standard care of medical patients on an acute ward.’
      • ‘The hospital is closing ward five, which deals with acute medical patients, until more nursing staff are recruited.’
      • ‘Above all the health service should operate in a way that keeps patients out of acute hospitals, thus minimising costs.’
      • ‘Managed clinical networks are in keeping with the increasingly important role primary care has in acute health care.’
      • ‘Fewer beds are available to acute patients because the beds they have are taken up by patients who no longer need to be in hospital but are not fit enough yet to go back to their own environment.’
  • 2Having or showing a perceptive understanding or insight; shrewd.

    ‘an acute awareness of changing fashions’
    • ‘Tom Hamilton has produced an acute and insightful response to my post on euthanasia, of a kind with which it is a pleasure to engage.’
    • ‘Toibin writes with acute insight about James's relations with Alice and with Minny Temple, who was a model for several of his most important women characters.’
    • ‘They've shown initiative, intelligence and an acute awareness of what punters need as they traipse round the stands.’
    • ‘They have no rights, but an acute awareness of their responsibilities to the youngest and most vulnerable generation.’
    • ‘My students articulate an acute awareness, if not a full understanding, of academic labor issues.’
    • ‘The staged contrast reveals an acute awareness of this double bind, this problem of representing mimetic desire while remaining insulated from it.’
    • ‘He has produced large number of booklets, souvenirs and brochures for many clubs, schools and the cricket board in this country, written with an acute insight of the game.’
    • ‘For a 16 year old, I had an acute awareness of the world outside of my own little high school/town.’
    • ‘After all, he has rightfully gained renown for his prolific writing and acute insight into current affairs.’
    • ‘Widely derided as being out of touch with the country, in fact the prime minister showed an acute awareness of the opposition's weaknesses and how best to exploit them.’
    • ‘As we will see, his works display an acute awareness of human faults and frailties and his writing exhibits a vividness and an elegance that makes it a pleasure to read.’
    • ‘Of all American presidents, Lincoln had the most acute religious insight.’
    • ‘Often, there is an acute awareness of the pain and hardship that accompanies life and many people with this aspect are well suited to working hard for the benefit of those that have suffered genuine hurt.’
    • ‘It could be denial but I feel more likely it's an acute awareness of the stakes involved.’
    • ‘Her valuable book offers the reader an acute insight into the origins of our present-day consumer culture.’
    • ‘It is reminiscent of Pessoa's poems on Spring in its acute awareness of the poet's mortality.’
    • ‘The Renaissance Italians also had an acute insight into the importance of the balance of power for maintaining international order among themselves.’
    • ‘Hooker displays an acute awareness that the hermeneutical task is not simply the intellectual assent to truth.’
    • ‘The originality resides in an acute awareness of how little an artist can dare to do in the course of creating great art.’
    • ‘But she did have an acute awareness of what people need in order to live.’
    astute, shrewd, sharp, sharp-witted, razor-sharp, rapier-like, quick, quick-witted, agile, nimble, ingenious, clever, intelligent, bright, brilliant, smart, canny, intuitive, discerning, perceptive, perspicacious, penetrating, insightful, incisive, piercing, discriminating, sagacious, wise, judicious
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    1. 2.1 (of a physical sense or faculty) highly developed; keen.
      ‘an acute sense of smell’
      • ‘It has a very acute sense of smell, and it has a natural explorative behavior.’
      • ‘The acute sense of smell is important, since the badger's eyes are quite small, and its eyesight is not particularly good.’
      • ‘I am a sensitive, not in a supernatural sense, but my senses are very acute, my hearing is very acute.’
      • ‘Polar bears have an acute sense of smell, and it is the most important sense for detecting prey on land.’
      • ‘Well, I have an acute sense of smell and hearing, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad.’
      • ‘They also have acute senses of smell, touch, and hearing.’
      • ‘Although suffering from poor vision, its sense of hearing and smell is acute and of primary importance in locating food.’
      • ‘Its sight is marvellously keen, hearing exceedingly acute, and sense of smell wonderfully perfect.’
      • ‘Whenever we see bats, we get quieter because they have an acute sense of hearing, and we don't want to scare them.’
      • ‘In total darkness, the bird relies on its acute sense of hearing.’
      • ‘This ability results from a well-developed, acute sense of hearing.’
      • ‘They use night vision and an acute sense of hearing to find prey in the dark.’
      • ‘He still figured it out, although an acute sense of smell might have helped that one.’
      • ‘They have a keen sense of smell, acute hearing, but poor eyesight.’
      • ‘Only Michael's acute sense of hearing saved him, allowing him just enough time to dive out of its path.’
      • ‘For instance, a hunting dog that could smell prey reduced the need for humans to have an acute sense of smell for that purpose.’
      • ‘A crocodile's sense of smell is very acute, and its hearing is also excellent.’
      • ‘Mrs Cook added that horses have acute hearing and can often hear a helicopter, and sense a disturbance in the air, from miles away.’
      • ‘I have a quite acute sense of smell, even if it is a bit overwhelmed with bleach and antiseptics.’
      • ‘They are keen hunters with acute vision and feed primarily on small birds and mammals, waterfowl, and reportedly, even bats.’
      keen, sharp, good, penetrating, discerning, perceptive, sensitive, subtle
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  • 3(of an angle) less than 90°.

    • ‘He takes it at a slightly too acute angle, and right there before my eyes, the whole car with its four occupants actually starts tipping onto its side.’
    • ‘This would solve the problem of cutting the front bevels, with its fence set at an acute angle to the plane sole and guided by the back of the molded strip.’
    • ‘Raul hits a volley from an acute angle which hits the net support’
    • ‘The glazed sections of the facade are at acute angles to the ground plane and provide a range of views of the forest.’
    • ‘As Pelonis describes it, many compression ceilings are set at an acute angle to the front wall and are typically very hard.’
    • ‘For the hard granite a chisel with a less acute angle is employed, and flat chisel is then used to smooth out the final surfaces of the stone and for undercutting.’
    • ‘The drawers are side hung and dovetailed, and the moldings are applied to form acute angles.’
    • ‘The building is a stepped linear form thrusting at an acute angle towards the sea.’
    • ‘It was because of the acute angle of the area over which he stepped, the acute angle at which the concrete went away from the bridge, that there was no room right there.’
    • ‘It has a large posterior auricle that has a concave posterior margin meeting the hinge at an acute angle.’
    • ‘An Adam Heyslip corner from the right was met by the unmarked Darren Flanagan at the back post and from an acute angle, he tucked the ball to the corner of the net giving the keeper little chance.’
    • ‘What looked like two scars were running down either side of Joe's back, forming a disconnected acute angle.’
    • ‘But Paul Hartley, having sped down the right flank into the box, sensed glory and drove the ball straight at goal from an acute angle.’
    • ‘I froze, my lips pursed above my drink, the mug tipped at a dangerously acute angle, not really believing what I was seeing.’
    • ‘The proposed layout would result in a vehicle crossing the footway at an acute angle and would therefore constitute a hazard to pedestrians on the public footway.’
    • ‘Saccheri then studied the hypothesis of the acute angle and derived many theorems of non-Euclidean geometry without realising what he was doing.’
    • ‘At its widest point, the form is abruptly sliced and then twisted further still, at an acute angle, to face and frame a distant mountain on the horizon.’
    • ‘These lines are usually represented diagrammatically as converging on the point to form an acute angle.’
    • ‘In a split-second, Andre De Lisser hooked the ball away from the keeper and, from an acute angle, curled it into the far corner of an unguarded goal.’
    • ‘In order to facilitate comparison among layers, all angles were measured as acute angles relative to the horizontal axis of the body.’
    1. 3.1 Having a sharp end; pointed.
      • ‘When you make the drill, do not make the cutting edges so sharp or too acute.’
      sharp, spear-like, needle-like, spear-shaped, v-shaped, tapering, tapered, cone-shaped, conic, conical, sharp-cornered, wedge-shaped, sharp-edged, edged, jagged, spiky, spiked, barbed
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  • 4(of a sound) high; shrill.

    • ‘This is an acute sound, which evokes desperate associations.’
    high, high-frequency, soprano, treble, falsetto, shrill, sharp, piping, piercing, penetrating
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  • short for acute accent
    • ‘The word côte has no acute on the "e" at the end of the word while coté does.’
    • ‘My name is pronounced Colay and has an acute on the e.’


Late Middle English (describing a disease or its symptoms): from Latin acutus, past participle of acuere ‘sharpen’, from acus ‘needle’.