Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Forceful, effective, and vigorous: a trenchant argument. See Synonyms at incisive.
  • adj. Caustic; cutting: trenchant criticism.
  • adj. Distinct; clear-cut.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Fitted to trench or cut; gutting; sharp.
  • adj. Keen; biting; vigorously effective and articulate; severe; as, trenchant wit.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Fitted to trench or cut; gutting; sharp.
  • adj. Fig.: Keen; biting; severe.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Cutting; sharp; keen.
  • Penetrating; energetic; downright.
  • Specifically, in zoology, sectorial, as a molar or premolar; sharp-edged: as, the trenchant canines of a saber-toothed tiger.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. clearly or sharply defined to the mind
  • adj. characterized by or full of force and vigor
  • adj. having keenness and forcefulness and penetration in thought, expression, or intellect

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, cutting, from present participle of trenchier, to cut; see trench.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French, from the present participle of trenchier, "to cut." (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Throughout the book, Seife's practiced journalist's eye results in trenchant nonmathematical observations.

    Charles Seife's "Proofiness," reviewed by John Allen Paulos

  • "Did you never see anyone wet?" she asked, in trenchant tones.

    Mates at Billabong

  • General Schenck did not appear to differ greatly from Davis, but what he said was in short, trenchant sentences, interjected from time to time.

    Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Volume 2 November 1863-June 1865

  • Bolton's assessment of Persian duplicity and his skepticism about the NIE recalls another trenchant comment by Rumsfeld on the nature of reports, that "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns ... but there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know."

    Philip Giraldi: Neocons Strike Back on Iran

  • And there is Barbour Bruce who might have been a writer, but is only known as a trenchant wit - "Who," she asked at a party, "was that nice, well-dressed, refined, common woman who has just had her cup of tea and gone away?"

    My beloved South,

  • In the summer of 1842 sundry coarse assaults upon Shields, attributed in great part, or wholly, to the so-called trenchant and witty pen of Miss Todd, appeared in the Springfield

    Abraham Lincoln

  • Meanwhile, Spencer, Emily and Aria are standing around a red trenchant, which is what Ali's claim ticket was for.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • Doyle -- That's exactly the kind of trenchant analysis that's going to get you a column in the New York Times.

    How the Edwards campaign blundered into hiring those bloggers.

  • MALCOLM Turnbull has been forced to reassure "trenchant" coalition critics of the Government's emissions trading scheme he will not act unilaterally over the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

    The Australian | News |

  • Ed M. of the Captain's Quarters (self-appointed naval officer in the Sargasso Sea of his own mind) adds the following 'trenchant' analysis to deflect attention from the central point - that World War II is totally different from the current War in Iraq / on Terror (in this war, bullets and bombs don't kill you, I guess, the laws of physics are suspended, and everyone has to yell "olly-olly-oxen-free" before floating upside down above the palm trees to deliver crippling sarcasm bomblets).

    The Democratic Daily

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