abstruse vs obtuse : Common Errors in English

About abstruse vs obtuse

Most people first encounter “obtuse” in geometry class, where it labels an angle of more than 90 degrees. Imagine what sort of blunt arrowhead that kind of angle would make and you will understand why it also has a figurative meaning of “dull, stupid.” But people often mix the word up with “abstruse,” which means “difficult to understand.”When you mean to criticize something for being needlessly complex or baffling, the word you need is not “obtuse,” but “abstruse.”

abstruse Meaning(s)

  • (s) difficult to penetrate; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge

obtuse Meaning(s)

  • (s) lacking in insight or discernment
  • (a) of an angle; between 90 and 180 degrees
  • (s) slow to learn or understand; lacking intellectual acuity
  • (s) (of a leaf shape) rounded at the apex

abstruse in News

  • How to Create Codes That Even the NSA Can't Break

    In a previous post I described mathematicians' ongoing search for key properties of prime numbers. That effort may seem to belong entirely within the realm of pure mathematics; but surprisingly, the importance of primes goes far beyond the abstruse obsessions of ivory-tower mathematicians. In fact, the use of prime numbers underlies some of the most dramatic events in the news these past weeks ...
    on August 1, 2013 Source: Discover

obtuse in News

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