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[uh b-toos, -tyoos] /əbˈtus, -ˈtyus/
not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect; not sensitive or observant; dull.
not sharp, acute, or pointed; blunt in form.
(of a leaf, petal, etc.) rounded at the extremity.
indistinctly felt or perceived, as pain or sound.
Origin of obtuse
1500-10; < Latin obtūsus dulled (past participle of obtundere), equivalent to ob- ob- + tūd-, variant stem of tundere to beat + -tus past participle suffix, with dt > s
Related forms
obtusely, adverb
obtuseness, noun
subobtuse, adjective
subobtusely, adverb
subobtuseness, noun
Can be confused
abstruse, obtuse.
1. unfeeling, tactless, insensitive; blind, imperceptive, unobservant; gauche, boorish; slow, dim. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for obtuseness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It has been said that his habit of tattooing is evidence of his obtuseness to pain; but it is not easy to see why.

    Tramping with Tramps Josiah Flynt
  • It is from neglect to open our hearts to Nature, that obtuseness comes.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • On the other hand, in respect to my impersonal opinions, I notice a little bewilderment, and some obtuseness.

    Soliloquies in England George Santayana
  • obtuseness to the beauty and meaning of Nature sinks us to the level of the brutes.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • Affectation is worse than obtuseness, for obtuseness is at least honest: it may mend its ways.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • We had not, however, taken into account the obtuseness of a barbaric despot.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • If that sentiment, that obtuseness to the massive horrors of war even when a son was involved, is widespread, the outlook is dark.

    The War and the Churches Joseph McCabe
  • As soon as he had taken up a business, his obtuseness vanished.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • He was matter-of-fact himself, but he could not comprehend the obtuseness of ignorance and self-occupation and youth.

    Madonna Mary Mrs. Oliphant
British Dictionary definitions for obtuseness


mentally slow or emotionally insensitive
  1. (of an angle) lying between 90° and 180°
  2. (of a triangle) having one interior angle greater than 90°
not sharp or pointed
indistinctly felt, heard, etc; dull: obtuse pain
(of a leaf or similar flat part) having a rounded or blunt tip
Derived Forms
obtusely, adverb
obtuseness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin obtūsus dulled, past participle of obtundere to beat down; see obtund
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for obtuseness



early 15c., "dull, blunted," from Middle French obtus (fem. obtuse), from Latin obtusus "blunted, dull," also used figuratively, past participle of obtundere "to beat against, make dull," from ob "against" (see ob-) + tundere "to beat," from PIE *(s)tud-e- "to beat, strike, push, thrust," from root *(s)teu- "to push, stick, knock, beat" (cf. Latin tudes "hammer," Sanskrit tudati "he thrusts"). Sense of "stupid" is first found c.1500. Related: Obtusely; obtuseness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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obtuseness in Medicine

obtuse ob·tuse (ŏb-tōōs', -tyōōs', əb-)

  1. Lacking quickness of perception or intellect.

  2. Not sharp or acute; blunt.

ob·tuse'ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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