late 14c., originally of fevers and diseases, "coming quickly to a crisis" (opposed to chronic), from Latin acutus "sharp, pointed," figuratively "shrill, penetrating; intelligent, cunning," past participle of acuere "to sharpen" (literal and figurative), from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce." Also used of humors (early 15c.). Meaning "ending in a sharp point" is from 1560s; sense of "sharp or penetrating in intellect" is from 1580s. Of feelings, pains, etc., "intense," 1727. As a noun, early 15c. of fevers; c. 1600 as "acute accent." Related: Acutely; acuteness.