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Acute vs Critical vs Crucial

Acute most commonly indicates intensification, sometimes rapid, of a situation demanding notice and showing signs of some definite resolution.

  • intimately associated with Indian affairs was the pressing question of defense . . . Pontiac’s rebellion made the issue acute
    —Morison & Commager
  • when the food shortage became acute in New Haven, the junior class of Yale College was moved to Glastonbury
    Amer. Guide Series: Conn.

Critical may describe an approach to a crisis or turning point and may imply an imminent outcome or resolution.

  • the war has reached a new critical phase . . . we have moved into active and continuing battle
  • the critical lack of rubber in the last war was finally beaten by the development of synthetic rubber plants capable of turning out 1,000,000 tons a year
    Collier’s Yr. Bk.

Crucial applies to an actual crisis situation, often one viewed with fear, worry, or suspense, and implies a speedily ensuing decisive or définitive outcome.

  • a continuous evolution, punctuated by the sudden flaming or flowering of a crucial moment now and then
  • the next few months are crucial. What we do now will affect our American way of life for decades to come