Is there a way to find out if a word is commendatory, derogatory / pejorative, or either? Does any dictionary say that out explicitly, instead of requiring users to infer from the given senses?

For example, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4208769-house-dem-leader-offers-support-for-vp-harris-after-pelosi-remarks-raise-eyebrows/ says

“And, by the way,” Pelosi continued, not stopping when CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked whether she also thought so, “She’s very politically astute. I don’t think people give her enough credit.”

I was wondering if "astute" is a commendatory or derogatory or pejorative word? The senses of the word given in a dictionary lead me to a thought that the word is slightly pejorative or derogatory. But the use of the word in the example makes me think otherwise.

  • Related: Is there a way to determine how offensive a word is?
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 10:43
  • I think it would help to focus this question here on the connotations of "astute" instead of the broader question, which was already covered at least somewhat in the linked question. Also, including specific quotes from the dictionary you read would be helpful.
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 13:07
  • @Laurel Not really related. The word tardy is pejorative but it's not in any way offensive in the sense of the linked-to question.. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


Astute means on-the-mark; intelligent; savvy. I've not heard it used as a negative, but as another user said it's all in the delivery and any compliment can become an insult if you use it with sarcasm (e.g. when someone stated the very-very obvious, calling that remark "astute" is an insult). I wonder if in some cases, being "astute" means being suspected of being a manipulator or trickster, either as in "wily" or lacking empathy "they are very astute at taking advantage of a weakness".


Your own experience seems to provide the answer to your general question: there is no single source for such context-dependent information.

As to your specific question, astute is not used as derogatory, except in the ironic sense that others have mentioned. There, it’s comparable to things like He’s a regular Sherlock Holmes, excepting that this latter, while it could be a compliment, is more often used as an at-least-mild insult.

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