Meaning of “critical” in the English Dictionary

"critical" in British English

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uk /ˈkrɪt.ɪ.kəl/ us /ˈkrɪt̬.ɪ.kəl/

critical adjective (NOT PLEASED)

B2 saying that someone or something is bad or wrong:

a critical report
The report is highly critical of safety standards at the factory.

More examples

  • She is critical of the president's globalist foreign policy.
  • She was highly critical of the insensitive and peremptory way in which the cases had been handled.
  • Many people were critical of the resurgent militarism in the country.
  • She is a prolific writer with critical views and a sharp tongue.
  • She is very critical of the way we bring up our children.

critical adjective (IMPORTANT)

B2 of the greatest importance to the way things might happen:

The president's support is critical (to this project).
a critical decision

More examples

  • The avoidance of injury is critical to a professional athlete.
  • It is critical that we keep the content of the letters secret.
  • Continued funding is critical for the project.
  • He left a case containing critical documents on the train.
  • Continual stirring is critical to a good custard.

critical adjective (GIVING OPINIONS)

C2 giving opinions or judgments on books, plays, films, etc.:

She has written a major critical appraisal/study of Saul Bellow's novels.
His last film won/received critical acclaim (= was praised by film critics).

More examples

  • Studying has certainly sharpened my critical faculties .
  • Despite his great commercial success he still yearns for critical approval.
  • The play opened to great critical acclaim.
  • He has written a long critical piece evaluating the exhibition.

(Definition of “critical” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"critical" in American English

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us /ˈkrɪt̬·ɪ·kəl/

critical adjective (IMPORTANT)

of the greatest importance:

critical industries
What happens in the next 48 hours is critical.

critical adjective (VERY BAD)

very bad or dangerous:

He was admitted to Metropolitan Hospital in critical condition.

critical adjective (JUDGING ENTERTAINMENT)

showing approval by those whose job is to judge entertainment:

The movie was a financial and critical success.

critical adjective (DISAPPROVING PERSON)

expressing an opinion about something or someone, esp. a negative opinion:

My mother is always so critical of the way I dress!

(Definition of “critical” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"critical" in Business English

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uk /ˈkrɪtɪkəl/ us

extremely important to the progress or success of something:

critical to/for sth Logistics and distribution are critical to an e-commerce venture's success.
Critical decisions need to be taken.
We see this as a critical time and potentially a turning point in the crisis.

extremely serious or dangerous:

be in critical condition As a result of unchecked pollution, the Chesapeake Bay is in critical condition.
The company had a loss of $511,000 and a critical shortage of cash.

saying that someone or something is bad or wrong:

A highly critical report was released Tuesday on BP's five U.S. refineries.
critical of sb/sth He is very critical of his manager.

using careful judgment:

We need to do some critical thinking to solve this problem.

The small business market as a whole is critically important.
Regional or bilateral trade deals need to be looked at more critically.

(Definition of “critical” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)