When it comes to "the level of importance", what is the difference between "urgent" and "critical"?

I have my own idea, but I recently came upon a scenario where the relative level of importance was reversed from my expectations. Thus, I'm looking for a standard/objective difference between the two.

  • Thanks for asking this, I was looking for exactly this, glad I didn't have to ask. Oct 11, 2012 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


My take is that urgent expresses the time frame in which the requirement must be met (but does not speak to the severity of failing to met the requirement), while critical expresses the importance of meeting it (but not the deadline for doing so); that is, the two measures are orthogonal, and it is possible for a task to be urgent but not terribly important or to be critical but not yet pressing.

  • 1
    I have a hard time getting around urgent but not terribly important...
    – Daniel
    Jul 30, 2011 at 19:48
  • 8
    @dm65: Think of a telephone ringing. It's urgent: you have about 30 seconds to take action or the opportunity will be missed. But lots of calls are not important. Jul 30, 2011 at 20:29

Going strictly off the dictionary definitions, urgent is "requiring immediate action" and critical is "having the potential to become disastrous" so I would say urgent is a higher priority than critical.


The difference between the two is roughly the difference between time and space.

"Urgent" refers to IMMEDIATENESS (time). "Critical" refers how "central" something is (position).

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