Meaning of CRITICAL in English

ˈkrid.ə̇kəl, -itə̇k-, -ēk- adjective

Etymology: critic (I) + -al


a. : inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably : given to noticing faults and imperfections

cooler and more critical in temper; hard to please — Willa Cather

b. : consisting of, marked by, being, or involving criticism

the critical writings of Swinburne

a critical biography

his critical insight

also : of or in the judgment of critics

the book won wide critical praise

the play was a critical success

c. : exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation : discriminating , careful , exact

a critical weighing of all the factors leaves no doubt that the countryman labors under real disadvantages

a cautious critical mind

d. : including variant readings and scholarly emendations

a critical edition

— compare variorum

2. : of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture:

a. : indicating or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be anticipated with reasonable certainty

the critical phase of a fever

b. : relating to, indicating, or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a finite change or undergoes drastic alteration

the parabola is a critical curve through which a conic section passes from an ellipse into a hyperbola

c. : crucial , decisive

a critical analogy between sound and light

this will be the critical test in the series

d. : indispensable for the weathering, the solution, or the overcoming of a crisis ; specifically : essential for the conduct of war but available only in short supply

critical materials

e. : in or approaching a crisis especially through economic disorders or by virtue of a disaster

a critical area


a. : of doubtful issue : attended by risk or uncertainty

our situation became critical with the early freeze

b. of kinds of organisms

(1) : so nearly related as to be distinguished with difficulty

two critical species

(2) : rare and diminishing in numbers

a critical element in the local flora

4. : of sufficient size to sustain or to be capable of sustaining a chain reaction — used of a mass of fissionable material


hypercritical , censorious , faultfinding , carping , captious , caviling : critical may describe a disposition to find and to stress faults

the attitude of Euripides … is so … frankly critical that a recent writer has even gone so far as to maintain that his main object … was to discredit the myths — G.L.Dickinson

Unlike the other words in this list, critical may describe fair, judicious evaluation

the exemplars of … the critical spirit, discriminators between the false and the true — P.E.More

The other words in the list are all close in suggestion and are often interchangeable. hypercritical and censorious indicate a tendency to discover and stress errors and imperfections

exceedingly difficult to please, not … because he was hypercritical and exacting, but because he was indifferent — Arnold Bennett

“do you mean that you heard a fellow doubt my wife …?” “The world's very censorious, old boy” — W.M.Thackeray

faultfinding , sometimes implying lack of background and discrimination, describes a temperament that is exacting and almost impossible to satisfy. carping and captious may imply perverse ill-natured faultfinding

these criticisms of a book that is a labor of love may seem ungracious or even carping — M.R.Cohen

after reading a work of such amplitude it seems captious to protest that the motivating forces … are inadequately analyzed — Geoffrey Bruun

caviling suggests frequent petty objections

those caviling critics who snipe from the musty back rooms of libraries — Charles Ramsdell

Synonym: see in addition acute .

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.