Definition of sharp in English:

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Pronunciation: /ʃɑːp/


1(Of an object) having an edge or point that is able to cut or pierce something: cut the cake with a very sharp knife keep tools sharp
More example sentences
  • She cried out in pain; it felt like sharp knives were piercing her.
  • Her fingernails grew long and sharp, able to pierce the skin of a creature in a matter of seconds.
  • A stone is used for ‘honing’ which means putting a sharp edge on your knife.
keen, sharp-edged, razor-sharp, razor-edged;
sharpened, honed, whetted;
serrated, knife-like, cutting, edged
rare acute
1.1Tapering to a point or edge: a sharp pencil her face was thin and her nose sharp
More example sentences
  • These spicules are up to 0.03 mm in diameter and taper to sharp tips.
  • The long robe drapes over the front of the throne, falling in pleats that taper to sharp points along the hem.
  • I took out a sharp pencil and began to fill in the grades.
pointed, tapering, tapered, needle-like, spiky
informal pointy
technical acicular, lanceolate, acuminate, subulate, mucronate, aculeate
rare cuspidate, cusped, conoid
1.2(Of sand or gravel) composed of angular grains.
Example sentences
  • The crushing also produced a sharp sand with angular grains that made it far preferable as a bonding agent in mortar.
  • The farm deals in soft and sharp sand and gravel.
  • Dig a trench with one straight side and put a mix of sharp sand and compost in the bottom to aid drainage, making the trench deep enough to allow two thirds of the cutting to be buried.
2Producing a sudden, piercing physical sensation or effect: I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my back
More example sentences
  • To top it all a niggling pain gave off a sharp, burning sensation in the bottom of her stomach.
  • She also experienced a sharp pain and burning sensation in her right elbow and a tingling sensation in her right hand and fingers.
  • If you have osteoporosis, the first warning sign might be a sudden sharp pain in your back that seems to have come on for no reason.
excruciating, agonizing, intense, violent, piercing, stabbing, shooting, stinging, severe, acute, keen, fierce, searing;
2.1(Of a food, taste, or smell) acidic and intense: fresh goats' milk cheese has a slightly sharper flavour than fromage frais
More example sentences
  • These materials both have a sharp smell, tangy taste, and are irritating to skin in large concentrations.
  • It had the sharp taste lemon tart should have but was not easy to cut on a saucer!
  • Then she smelt the sharp tang of sulphur again and turned back.
tangy, piquant, strong;
acidic, acid, acidy, sour, tart, vinegary, pungent, bitter;
North American  acerb
rare acidulous, acetic, acetous
acrid, burning, pungent
2.2(Of a sound) sudden and penetrating: there was a sharp crack of thunder
More example sentences
  • A sharp click sounded in her ears, but she was too busy to notice.
  • The sharp sound was so sudden that the horses nearest to him jumped and wouldn't settle down for at least five minutes.
  • The gun itself barely moves, and the sharp sound of the report echoes through surrounding hills and dies away.
loud, piercing, shrill, high-pitched, high, penetrating, harsh, strident;
ear-splitting, deafening, thunderous, booming, head-splitting
2.3(Of words or a speaker) critical or hurtful: she feared his sharp tongue he could be very sharp with her
More example sentences
  • Her words were sharp and hurtful and more than anything he knew now that he had been wrong to think she had some decency in her to start with.
  • Fervently, she shook her head at each accusation he made, holding her hands over her ears in hope of blocking out such hurtful and sharp words.
  • Seemingly confident just a few weeks ago, she is now prone to utter sharp words about her critics in public.
harsh, bitter, hard, cutting, scathing, caustic, biting, barbed, trenchant, mordant, acrimonious, acerbic, tart, acid, sarcastic, sardonic, ill-tempered, spiteful, venomous, malicious, vitriolic, vicious, hurtful, nasty, unkind, severe, cruel, wounding, abusive;
curt, brusque, abrasive;
North American  acerb
informal bitchy, catty
rare mordacious, acidulous
2.4(Of an emotion or experience) felt acutely or intensely; painful: her sharp disappointment was tinged with embarrassment
More example sentences
  • As her mind unravels we experience sudden images of sharp terror.
  • My feelings of disappointment were sharp, but soon the intifada was over.
  • They remember the sharp fear of unwanted pregnancies.
intense, acute, keen, strong, bitter, fierce, searing, piercing, heartfelt, very great, overpowering
3Distinct in outline or detail; clearly defined: the job was a sharp contrast from her past life the scene was as sharp and clear in his mind as a film
More example sentences
  • Detail is sharp and clear, contrast is nicely managed, and deep black levels make this pleasing to behold - visually.
  • Despite their pervasiveness, lanning clearly shows that such sharp distinctions cannot be maintained.
  • Birth to three months - newborn babies can't see particularly well, but they do like to look at faces and distinct patterns with sharp outlines.
distinct, clear-cut, clear, well defined, well focused, crisp;
obvious, marked, definite, pronounced, evident, manifest
4(Of an action or change) sudden and marked: there was a sharp increase in interest rates he heard her sharp intake of breath
More example sentences
  • Exports have been hit also because of the sudden and sharp increase in the value of the euro against the dollar and, most importantly, against sterling.
  • According to their calculations, neither global sea level rise nor faster melting of glacial ice could have produced such a sharp change.
  • By a ‘currency crisis’ he means a sharp change in the value of the US dollar that would hurt the economy as a whole.
sudden, abrupt, rapid;
steep, precipitous, precipitate
4.1(Of a bend, angle, or turn) making a sudden change of direction: the bus creaked round a sharp hairpin bend
More example sentences
  • They would travel in one direction for a while and then curve back in a very sharp turn in another direction.
  • Now was time to use my new toy, the strip heater, since I needed a nice straight line bent at a sharp angle.
  • He lay sprawled on the tiles, his arms and legs bent at sharp angles.
hairpin, tight, angular
5Having or showing speed of perception, comprehension, or response: her sharp eyes missed nothing his old mind was not so sharp as it once was
More example sentences
  • For his self-awareness is acute and his sense of humour is sharp.
  • Rigel is looking ominously sharp now and his speed around the court is making it difficult for me to find a winner.
  • If you have the right background and are sharp, witty and perceptive, we would like to hear from you.
keen, perceptive, observant, acute, sharp-sighted, beady, hawklike
perceptive, discerning, percipient, perspicacious, penetrative, piercing, penetrating, discriminating, sensitive, incisive, keen, keen-witted, acute, sharp-witted, quick, quick-witted, clever, shrewd, astute, intelligent, intuitive, bright, agile, nimble, nimble-witted, alert, quick off the mark, ready, apt, fine, finely honed, rapier-like, probing, searching, insightful, knowing
informal smart, on the ball, quick on the uptake, not missing a trick, savvy, with all one's wits about one, downy, genius
British informal suss, knowing how many beans make five
Scottish & Northern English informal pawky
North American informal cute, heads-up, whip-smart
rare long-headed, argute
5.1Quick to take advantage, especially in an unscrupulous or dishonest way: Paul’s a sharp operator
More example sentences
  • It's one thing if analysts are deceived by sharp operators.
  • As for O'Neill, he left with his reputation as a quick-witted sharp operator severely dented.
  • In reality, it was ordinary citizens and not the sharp operators who stored their wealth in banknotes.
clever, shrewd, canny, smart;
cunning, wily, crafty, artful, guileful, unscrupulous, dishonest
informal slick
British informal fly
6(Of musical sound) above true or normal pitch.
Example sentences
  • The entire musical burden is shifted to the massive chorus, while fierce sharp chords pronounce the onset of the bloody wounds.
  • Rebecca knew it was really cold when Jimmy took a full ten minutes to warm up from slightly flat to his usual, obnoxiously sharp pitch.
  • The Quail's voice also gave rise to a number of imitative names in Britain and Ireland, which incorporate the three sharp notes.
6.1 [postpositive] (Of a note) a semitone higher than a specified note: F sharp
More example sentences
  • I wrote a few brass pieces, and my magnum opus, an orchestral epic called Life in C sharp, which displayed minimalist influences - lots of C sharps.
  • His annotations to this CD proudly point out the Cs, C sharps, and Ds that he must sing.
  • Also, there are many ways of producing an F sharp on a cello.
6.2(Of a key) having a sharp or sharps in the signature.
Example sentences
  • The standard treble is available in B, sounding a tone below written pitch and best for flat keys, or in A, sounding a minor 3rd lower and better for sharp keys.
7 informal (Of clothes or their wearer) smart and stylish: they were greeted by a young man in a sharp suit
More example sentences
  • The result is a translation of ordinarily masculine clothing into sharp womenswear that's feminine and sexy without flashing flesh.
  • When you hear the word secretary, you probably think of a pretty, petite lady who wears stylish, sharp skirt outfits.
  • I recently bought a really sharp suit at the Men's Warehouse here in Philly.
smart, stylish, fashionable, chic, modish, elegant, spruce
informal trendy, cool, snazzy, classy, flash, snappy, natty, nifty, dressy
North American informal kicking, kicky, tony, fly, spiffy, sassy, stylin'
archaic trig


1Precisely (used after an expression of time): the meeting starts at 7.30 sharp
More example sentences
  • At 8 p.m. sharp the Fashion Show commenced.
  • Tuesday morning, 8 sharp I was back at the hospital.
  • The next meeting takes place on Wednesday, May 14, at 8pm sharp and will be the annual general meeting.
precisely, exactly, on the dot;
promptly, prompt, punctually, dead on, on the stroke of …
North American informal on the button, on the nose
Australian/New Zealand informal on the knocker
2In a sudden or abrupt way: turn sharp right at the corner he was brought up sharp by Helen’s voice
More example sentences
  • On anything other than a smooth track it would suddenly turn sharp left for no reason.
abruptly, suddenly, sharply, all of a sudden, unexpectedly, without warning
3Above the true or normal pitch of musical sound: he heard him playing a little sharp on the high notes


1A musical note raised a semitone above natural pitch.
Example sentences
  • Choices in successive levels expand to all notes, then sharps and flats.
  • The chromatic scale includes five additional notes - the sharps and flats (black keys of a piano).
  • Ex. 4 shows an octave of the chromatic scale beginning on C, notated in sharps ascending and flats descending.
1.1The sign ♯, indicating a sharp.
Example sentences
  • Chong goes so far as to indicate fingering with Arabic numbers; flats and sharps are marked by downward and upward arrows, respectively.
  • For keys with sharps, look at the last sharp in the series of sharps, and say the catch phrase ‘little step up, big step down.’
  • The smart little thing knows how to whistle the closing melody of one of my piano concerti, though he's added a sharp on the G.
2A long, sharply pointed needle used for general sewing.
2.1 (usually sharps) A thing with a sharp edge, such as a blade or a fragment of glass: the safe disposal of sharps and clinical waste
More example sentences
  • Secondary prevention, by contrast, refers to practices and technologies that make sharps safer, such as retractable blades and shielded hypodermic needles.
  • Workers must be trained in safe handling techniques of livestock medical wastes, including medical sharps.
  • These safety shields will reduce the risk of accidental exposure of healthcare workers to infectious agents through contaminated sharps in the workplace.
3 informal A swindler or cheat. See also card sharp.
Example sentences
  • Deals of all sorts will be cut before this election ends here in the home of the sharps and sharks who have been cutting all sorts of deals for more than a century.
  • However, when the number is right, the sharps bet into books that post 20-cent lines.


[with object]
1 (usually as adjective sharped) Music , US Raise the pitch of (a note).
2 archaic Cheat or swindle (someone), especially at cards: the fellow is drunk, let’s sharp him
Late 17th century: from sharper; compare with shark2



sharp as a tack

North American Extremely clever or astute.
Example sentences
  • As a lawyer in Southern California with a mind that's sharp as a tack, it's not good to miss even one day (she's mega-prolific) of her blog.
  • It should be noted that his mind is sharp as a tack.
  • She's a lovely 77-year-old woman, sharp as a tack, without an enemy in the world.

the sharp end

see end.

not the sharpest knife in the drawer

(or not the sharpest tool in the shed, etc.)
informal Lacking intelligence; stupid: she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she isn’t dishonest
More example sentences
  • She certainly doesn't look like the sharpest knife in the box.
  • Lydia doesn't exactly come off as the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • Although he's a cutie, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed!


Old English sc(e)arp, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch scherp and German scharf.

Words that rhyme with sharp

Arp, carp, harp, scarp, tarp

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sharp

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