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Words like apex, peak, pinnacle or acme are usually used to describe the most successful, powerful or exciting part of something.

Is it okay if I use them for the maximum point of a bad situation? If not, what word can I use then? (any word other than maximum)

For example:

In 1870s, the sense of frustration reached its ............. .

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You might call this point a crisis.

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

crisis

[...]

an extremely difficult or dangerous point in a situation:

crisis talks

A mediator has been called in to resolve the crisis.

US also crisis point a moment during a serious illness when there is the possibility of suddenly getting either better or worse:

He's passed the crisis - the fever's started to go down.

I would take care, however, to make it clear from context that the intention is not to invoke the first definition in that dictionary, which is "a time of great disagreement, confusion, or suffering."

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Peak sounds best to me, and pinnacle or apex would work as well I believe (maybe acme would too but I just never see it used).

You could also use peak as a verb there - "the sense of frustration peaked" (but not piqued or peeked! -.-).

  • 1
    This is a nice answer. It would be better if you included and linked to some supporting evidence. – Davo Dec 29 '17 at 20:52
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As antonym to the examples you give (and as direct antonym to zenith), consider also nadir. From the Oxford Living Dictionaries:

nadir

NOUN

1-The lowest or most unsuccessful point in a situation.

2-(Astronomy) The point on the celestial sphere directly below an observer.

  • This is the word I first thought of, but "sense of frustration reached its nadir" sounds odd. "Confidence reached its nadir" would be fine. – ab2 Dec 30 '17 at 4:01
  • That hadn't occurred to me. You mean it would sound like a double negative? I think you may be right. – Matt S. Dec 30 '17 at 4:08
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A word often associated with difficult situations is crux.

The decisive or most important point at issue.

A particular point of difficulty.

Also, at dictionary.com

a vital, basic, decisive, or pivotal point

Example from Mandates Reasons, Results, Remedies

It must not be forgotten that agitation reached its crux during the depression.

Example from BBC News

The number of men entering seminaries reached its crux in the 1960s, Father Embery says, leaving a top-heavy age profile within the priest population.

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    I hate to be critical, but I don't think "crux" means what you think it means. It is the crucial point of an argument or a question. The dictionary.com definition reflects this meaning. "Mandates Reasons, Results Remedies" is at best archaic, but the myriad spelling errors undermine any authority it might have had. You may want to revisit your research. – Allen S. Dec 30 '17 at 5:13
  • The spelling errors in the linked to page were introduced by the OCR process used to digitize it. – hatchet Dec 30 '17 at 22:08
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    If you google the quoted text "reached its crux", you will find many examples using crux as in high point or maximum. This may derive from one of its meanings as turning point. – hatchet Dec 30 '17 at 22:46

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