AskDefine | Define critical

Dictionary Definition

critical adj
1 marked by a tendency to find and call attention to errors and flaws; "a critical attitude" [ant: uncritical]
2 at or of a point at which a property or phenomenon suffers an abrupt change especially having enough mass to sustain a chain reaction; "a critical temperature of water is 100 degrees C--its boiling point at standard atmospheric pressure"; "critical mass"; "go critical" [ant: noncritical]
3 characterized by careful evaluation and judgment; "a critical reading"; "a critical dissertation"; "a critical analysis of Melville's writings" [ant: uncritical]
4 urgently needed; absolutely necessary; "a critical element of the plan"; "critical medical supplies"; "vital for a healthy society"; "of vital interest" [syn: vital]
5 forming or having the nature of a turning point or crisis; "a critical point in the campaign"; "the critical test" [syn: decisive]
6 being in or verging on a state of crisis or emergency; "a critical shortage of food"; "a critical illness"; "an illness at the critical stage" [ant: noncritical]
7 of or involving or characteristic of critics or criticism; "critical acclaim"

User Contributed Dictionary





From Ancient Greek κριτικός (kritikos) "of or for judging, able to discern" < κρίσις "crisis"


  1. Inclined to find fault or criticize; fastidious; captious; censorious; exacting.
  2. Pertaining to, or indicating, a crisis, turning point, or specially important juncture.
  3. Of the point (in temperature, reagent concentration etc.) where a nuclear or chemical reaction becomes self-sustaining.
  4. Extremely important
    It's critical that you deliver this on time.
  5. Relating to literary criticism and related kinds of criticism
    The movie was a critical success, but bombed at the box-office.
  6. Likely to "runaway" if disturbed, that is, opposite of stable.

Related terms


inclined to find fault
pertaining to or indicating a crisis
  • Finnish: kriittinen
of the point where a reaction becomes self-sustaining
  • Czech: kritický
  • Finnish: kriittinen
  • French: critique
  • German: kritisch
extremely important
relating to criticism

Extensive Definition

Critical may denote:
More specifically:


Psychology and education

  • critical pedagogy - helping students achieve critical consciousness
  • critical psychology - critiquing mainstream psychology, often looking towards social change as a means of preventing and treating psychopathology
  • critical thinking - mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation

Biology and medicine

  • critical care - intensive care medicine
  • critical period - a time in the early stages of an organism's life during which it displays a heightened sensitivity to certain environmental stimuli, and develops in particular ways due to experiences at this time



  • critical angle - the angle of incidence above which total internal reflection occurs.
  • critical distance - in audio physics, the distance at which the sound pressure level of the direct and the reverberant sound fields are equal when dealing with a directional source.
  • critical mass - the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
  • critical point (thermodynamics) - conditions (temperature, pressure) at which the liquid state of matter ceases to exist
  • critical speed - the theoretical angular velocity which excites the natural frequency of a screw or gear.

Process control

  • Critical Control Point - a point, step or procedure at which controls can be applied and a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable (critical) levels
  • critical hours - from sunrise to two hours after sunrise, and from two hours before sunset until sunset, local time
  • critical path method - project management algorithm
  • Critical Security Parameter - information that is either user or system defined and is used to operate a cryptography module in processing encryption functions
  • Critical Success Factor - an element which is necessary for an organization or project to achieve its mission.


  • critical angle of attack - such that the airflow has separated from a substantial portion of the upper surface of the airfoil
  • critical area - designated area of an airport that all aircraft must remain clear of when another aircraft is inbound on an ILS approach
  • critical engine - the one whose failure would result in the most adverse effects on the aircraft's handling and performance
  • critical mach - the speed at which some of the airflow on a wing becomes supersonic.


  • Critical (novel) - a medical thriller written by Dr. Robin Cook
  • critical focus - the portion of a photograph that is optically in focus
  • critical hit - in role-playing games, a successful attack that deals more damage than a normal hit
  • critical load - of a pollutant, minimum exposure threshold for known harmful effects
  • critical section - piece of code requiring single-thread to a shared device
  • Critical Software - company specializing in mission and business critical information systems.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Herculean, abstruse, accurate, acute, alarming, allegorizing, annotative, appreciative, arduous, attentive, bad, basic, belittling, brutal, captious, carping, caviling, censorious, charged, choicy, choosy, clamorous, clarifying, climacteric, close, commentative, commentatorial, compelling, complex, conclusive, conscientious, consequential, correct, critic, crucial, crying, cynical, dangerous, dangersome, decisive, delicate, demanding, demeaning, demonstrative, demythologizing, deprecating, deprecative, deprecatory, depreciating, depreciative, depreciatory, desperate, detailed, determinative, differential, difficile, difficult, dire, discerning, discoursive, discriminate, discriminating, discriminative, disparaging, disquisitional, dissertational, distinctive, distinguishing, editorial, elucidative, emergent, enlightening, essayistic, essential, euhemeristic, exact, exacting, exegetic, exemplificative, exigent, explaining, explanatory, explicative, explicatory, explosive, expositive, expositorial, expository, exquisite, fastidious, faultfinding, fine, finical, finicking, finicky, formidable, fraught with danger, fussy, glossarial, grave, hairsplitting, hairy, hard, hard-earned, hard-fought, high-pressure, high-priority, humbling, hypercritical, illuminating, illuminative, illustrative, imperative, imperious, important, insistent, instant, intricate, jawbreaking, jeopardous, judgemental, judgmental, judicative, judicial, judiciary, judicious, juridic, juristic, kairotic, key, knotted, knotty, laborious, loaded, lowering, mean, menacing, meticulous, minute, momentous, monographic, nagging, narrow, nice, niggling, no picnic, not easy, on slippery ground, on thin ice, operose, overcritical, parlous, particular, penetrating, perfectionistic, periculous, perilous, pettifogging, picky, pivotal, precarious, precise, precisianistic, precisionistic, pregnant, pressing, priggish, prudish, punctilious, punctual, puristic, puritanic, quibbling, rationalistic, rationalizing, refined, religious, rigid, rigorous, rough, rugged, scholiastic, scrupulous, scrutinizing, selective, sensitive, serious, set with thorns, severe, significant, slippery, slippy, spiny, steep, strenuous, strict, subtle, tactful, thorny, threatening, ticklish, toilsome, touch-and-go, touchy, tough, trichoschistic, tricky, ugly, ultracritical, uncertain, uphill, urgent, vital, weighty, wicked
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1