If you're trenchant, it means you think or say smart, sharply worded things that cut right to the heart of the matter. A trenchant observation is one that makes people scratch their chins thoughtfully, or wince with embarrassment for whomever you're talking about, or both.

The word trenchant originates from tranchant, which in French means "sharp" or "cutting," and it's related to the word trench, which originally meant a line carved in wood and later came to mean a ditch carved into the earth. The word is often used to describe political commentary or cultural criticism. One person known for her trenchant wit was the author and critic Mary McCarthy, who once said of the writer Lillian Hellman, "Every word she writes is a lie, including the 'and' and the 'the'."

Definitions of trenchant

adj having keenness and forcefulness and penetration in thought, expression, or intellect

trenchant criticism”
having the capacity for thought and reason especially to a high degree

adj characterized by or full of force and vigor

“a trenchant argument”
effective, effectual, efficacious
producing or capable of producing an intended result or having a striking effect

adj clearly or sharply defined to the mind

trenchant distinctions between right and wrong”
clear-cut, distinct
readily apparent to the mind

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.