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When something is sharp it means that it has a thin cutting edge or that its ends have edges or points. Figuratively, sharp means ‘clearly defined,’ ‘involving a sudden change in direction,’ or ‘intense.’ Related to intensity, sharp can mean ‘angry,’ ‘violent,’ or ‘harsh’. When we’re talking about people, sharp means ‘mentally quick’ or ‘clever.’ As an adverb, sharp means ‘carefully or alertly’ or ‘suddenly’ and when we’re talking about time, it means ‘exactly.’

Example sentences

Words often used with sharp

sharp practice: behavior that is so shrewd or clever it is almost dishonest. Example: “That accountant has never been found guilty of anything, but he has a reputation for sharp practice.”

Did you know?

A sharp taste is a taste that is strong or bitter; for example lemons and some cheeses could be said to have a sharp taste.

Other forms

sharpness (noun), sharply (adverb), sharpen (verb)


Sharp dates back to before the year 900. The Old and Middle English adjective scearp (pronounced like sharp, but with a longer a than Modern English) meant ‘having a cutting edge or pointed,’ but also ‘intellectually acute or shrewd,’ ‘with keen senses,’ and ‘severe, biting, or bitter.’ It comes from the Proto-Germanic adjective skarpaz, which meant ‘cutting.’ It is related to the German scharf and the Dutch scherf (both of which mean ‘sharp,’ but also ‘hot’ when talking about food like chillies). Sharp can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root (s)ker- (to cut), which is also the origin of the Irish cearb (a cut) and the English words keen and shear. The meaning ‘cutting or sarcastic,’ referring to words or talk, is from the 13th century, while ‘quick to take advantage’ appeared in the late 16th century. 

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