Word of The Day for Friday, September 24, 2010


ob•tund  /ɒbˈtʌnd/  v


To reduce the edge, pungency, or violent action of; to dull; to blunt; to deaden; to quell.

ob·tund·ent, adjective
ob·tun·di·ty, noun


Synonyms: attenuate, benumb, cripple, dampen, deaden, debilitate, desensitize, disable, enfeeble, hebetate, numb , sap, soften, take the edge off, undermine, water down, weaken
Related Words: Obtundation refers to less than full mental capacity in a medical patient, typically as a result of a medical condition or trauma. The root word, obtund, means "dulled or less sharp".
Obtunded: Neurology adjective- Mentally dulled
Obtuse: not pointed or acute
Retund: To blunt; to turn, as an edge; figuratively, to cause to be obtuse or dull; as, to retund confidence


• Here Claudia formed the habit of drinking much more wine than was good for her: and she did it to blunt her sensibility; to obtund the sharpness of her heartache; to give her sleep.

• While we live upon the level with the rest of mankind, we are reminded of our duty by the admonitions of friends and reproaches of enemies; but men who stand in the highest ranks of society, seldom hear of their faults; if by any accident an opprobrious clamour reaches their ears, flattery is always at hand to pour in her opiates, to quiet conviction, and obtund remorse.

• Likewise a writer or speaker generally should not say obtund when the verbs dull and blunt come more readily to mind.


c.1400, (trans.) "to render dead, make dull," used occasionally in English, especially in medical jargon; from L. obtundere to blunt or dull by striking at, equiv. to ob-  ob- + tundere  to strike

Sources: Wordnik, Dictionary.com,

Why This Word:

Another fine word that survives largely only in technical literature. Search for obtund on Google and get about 87,000 results, along with the query as whether you really meant to looked for the medical term obtunded. 

But whereas to dull, blunt or deaden are more focused on the effect of the action, obtund is more about the act itself. Contrast with Latinate synonym hebetate - to make dull or obtuse - derived by the root hebes: dull. Obtund originates, on the other hand, from the word meaning to strike and carries with it the sense of quell or reduce the violent action of. This active quality differentiates obtund from its flock of synonyms and recommends itself for rescue from the medical literature.

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