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keep a sharp lookout (for something or someone)

To remain vigilant or carefully watchful (for something or someone). They should be arriving any minute, so keep a sharp lookout. Keep a sharp lookout for a Christmas present we could give your mother. Keep a sharp lookout for the health inspector, we heard he'll be doing a surprise inspection someday soon.

sharp cookie

A particularly smart, witty, or clever person. Dan: "I'm having a heck of a time doing my taxes, I just don't understand it at all." Steve: "You should get in touch with my uncle, he's one sharp cookie!" We're always looking to hire sharp cookies like you.
See also: cookie, sharp

sharp practice

Underhanded, deceitful, cunning, or particularly sneaky practice, especially in business, that is technically within the scope of the law but which may be considered immoral or unethical. The investment banking sector has been tightly reined in by the government after the sharp practice that went unchecked for so many years and cost so many people their life savings.
See also: practice, sharp

short sharp shock

A fast, severe punishment. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. He needs a short sharp shock to persuade him to change his ways and give up that life of crime.
See also: sharp, shock, short


1. Literally, very sharp, like a razor. Stand back, that tool is razor-sharp! Please be careful cutting those vegetables with such a razor-sharp knife.
2. Particularly clear, perceptive, and/or intelligent. Victoria may seem quiet, but she always has these razor-sharp insights on the texts we're reading. The think tank is known for razor-sharp analysis of world affairs. A lot of people are funny, but she has razor-sharp wit.

at (some time) sharp

At an exact time, with the emphasis that one must not be late. We need to leave for the airport at 8 AM sharp tomorrow morning. Please be here at 6:30 sharp.
See also: sharp

be as sharp as a tack

To be intelligent and a quick-thinker. Ted's as sharp as a tack, so he'll find a solution to this problem. Of course Ellen is our valedictorian—she's as sharp as a tack.
See also: sharp, tack

the sharp end

The most challenging or difficult part of an activity. This repair is pretty simple until we get to the sharp end—replacing the battery. The sharp end of this merger will be negotiating the payouts to the executives.
See also: end, sharp

(as) sharp as a tack

Intelligent and a quick-thinker. Ted's as sharp as a tack, so he'll find a solution to this problem. Of course Ellen is our valedictorian—she's as sharp as a tack.
See also: sharp, tack

at some time sharp

exactly at the time named. You must be here at noon sharp. The plane is expected to arrive at seven forty-five sharp.
See also: sharp, time

have a mind as sharp as a steel trap

Fig. to be very intelligent. She's a smart kid. Has a mind as sharp as a steel trap. They say the professor has a mind as sharp as a steel trap, but then why can't he figure out which bus to take in the morning?
See also: have, mind, sharp, steel, trap

sharp as a razor

1. very sharp. (*Also: as ~.) The penknife is sharp as a razor. The carving knife will have to be as sharp as a razor to cut through this gristle.
2. and sharp as a tack very sharp-witted or intelligent. (*Also: as ~.) The old man's senile, but his wife is as sharp as a razor. Sue configure things out from even the slightest hint. She's as sharp as a tack.
See also: razor, sharp

sharp tongue

Fig. an outspoken or harsh manner; a critical manner of speaking. He has quite a sharp tongue. Don't be totally unnerved by what he says or the way he says it.
See also: sharp, tongue

sharp wit

Fig. a good and fast ability to make jokes and funny comments. Terry has a sharp wit and often makes cracks that force people to laugh aloud at inappropriate times.
See also: sharp, wit

throw something into sharp relief

Fig. [for something] to make something plainly evident or clearly visible. The dull, plain background threw the ornate settee into sharp relief. The red vase was thrown into sharp relief against the black background.
See also: relief, sharp, throw

keep an eye out for

Also, keep a sharp lookout for. Be watchful for something or someone, as in Keep an eye out for the potholes in the road, or They told him to keep a sharp lookout for the police. The first expression, sometimes amplified to keep a sharp eye out for, dates from the late 1800s, the variant from the mid-1700s. Also see have one's eye on, def. 1; keep a weather eye; keep one's eyes open; look out.
See also: eye, keep, out

look sharp

Get moving, be alert, as in The coach told the team they would have to look sharp if they wanted to win. This colloquial expression, dating from the early 1700s, originally meant "to keep a strict watch" but acquired its present sense in the early 1800s.
See also: look, sharp

sharp as a tack

Also, sharp as a razor. Mentally acute. For example, She's very witty-she's sharp as a tack. These similes are also used literally to mean "having a keen cutting edge" and have largely replaced the earlier sharp as a needle or thorn. The first dates from about 1900, the variant from the mid-1800s.
See also: sharp, tack

sharp practice

Crafty or deceitful dealings, especially in business. For example, That firm's known for its sharp practice, so I'd rather not deal with them. This expression, first recorded in 1836, uses sharp in the combined sense of "mentally acute" and "cutting."
See also: practice, sharp

the sharp end

mainly BRITISH
COMMON The sharp end of an activity or type of work is the part where the most difficulties or the hardest work are experienced. Crime prevention is now the sharp end of policing. Still only 28, Smith has been at the sharp end of activism for almost a decade. Note: In sailors' slang, the bow or front end of a ship is known as `the sharp end'.
See also: end, sharp

a short, sharp shock

A short, sharp shock is a punishment that is severe but only lasts for a short time. Many parents believe that a short sharp shock is at times necessary for naughty children.
See also: sharp, shock

all sharped up

mod. dressed up; looking sharp. Chuckie, my man, you are totally sharped up.
See also: all, sharp, up


1. mod. clever; intelligent. She’s sharp enough to see right through everything you say.
2. mod. good-looking; well-dressed. That’s a sharp set of wheels you got there.
References in periodicals archive ?
Data also indicated the sharpest rise in input buying since the survey began in August 2009.
According to the Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking North East PMI report - a seasonally adjusted index that measures the combined output of the region's manufacturing and service sectors - growth was supported by the sharpest intake of new business since March 2010, although employment levels rose at only a modest pace.
Real estate investment trusts, or Reits, have risen more than 5 per cent so far this week, headed for their sharpest weekly gain in more than four years, though an upward trend in interest rates could cap further gains, said CIMB analysts in a research note.
80 a troy ounce is the sharpest two-day tumble since 1983, when the last gold bull market was unraveling, Financial Times said in a report quoted by CNN.
Output and new orders increased solidly and employment levels rose at the sharpest rate in three months.
BEIRUT: The price of gasoline saw the sharpest increase this week, rising by LL400, according to the Energy and Water Ministry's latest price list update.
0 percent to 279,389 units for the all-time sharpest percentage point decline and the seventh straight month of fall.
Belgium and Germany noted the sharpest monthly increases among major counties, whilst Sweden saw the strongest annual expansion.
The number of temporary and contract jobs also increased in recent weeks, with short-term appointments rising at the sharpest rate for almost three years.
Summary: The newly refurbished Hubble space telescope is showing us the sharpest photos yet of deep into the cosmos.
Now, Hubble's sharpest camera has died, and there's no way to bring it back to its full power.
The sharpest, most sensitive camera on the aging Hubble Space Telescope has stopped working, and its most impressive capability can't be revived, NASA announced this week
SAT scores are way down this year, the sharpest decline in 31 years.
This has resulted in a loss of goodwill towards America which could be as serious in the long-term as the sharpest of military defeats.
Drummer Matt Tong's insistent, thunderous rhythm beds ground the band's sharpest production yet.