Do astute and acute have identical meaning ( - quick or shrewd) and usage? Thanks.

EDIT: From the comments below there appears to be significant disagreement about usage and a discussion seems worthwhile.

  • Of course they don't, as any dictionary will tell you. Oct 9, 2013 at 7:33
  • 3
    You know when you've got astute appendicitis. Oct 9, 2013 at 7:40

1 Answer 1


Yes they do - in the sense you refer to. They both denote intellectual sharpness or sagacity. Even though they have very different etymologies the sense of sharpness is common to both adjectives. Thus you can use them interchangeably in the following contexts for instance:

He is an astute[acute] observer.

He has acute eyesight [astute vision].

The Fort is a treasure house of priceless relics - miniatures, paintings, howdahs, palanquins and arms - all displayed with an astute eye for aesthetics and history (OED).

Etymologically the meaning of acute derives from the concept of sharpness of a needle - thus giving the sense of incisiveness.

Astute shares etymology with asteism (both meaning belonging to the city). See A term for this type of language.

  • 1
    'Astute vision' would not be accepted by the OED (or me) since, as you say, astute denotes sagacity. Oct 9, 2013 at 15:20
  • There appear to be numerous examples of its application that do not constrain the application to such a narrow interpretation. One of the first searches on google produces an optometrist called Astute Vision Care.
    – user49727
    Oct 9, 2013 at 15:30

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