adj. cut·er, cut·est
a. Attractive or pretty in a youthful or dainty way: a cute puppy; a child wearing a cute outfit.
b. Sexually attractive; good-looking: a cute boyfriend.
2. Obviously contrived to charm; precious: "[He] mugs so ferociously he kills the humor—it's an insufferably cute performance" (David Ansen).
3. Clever or witty, especially in an impertinent or evasive way, as in falsely suggesting that one is ignorant about the matter at hand.
[Short for ACUTE.]
Word History: Cute was originally a shortened form of acute in the sense "keenly perceptive or discerning, shrewd." In this sense cute is first recorded in a dictionary published in 1731. Probably cute came to be used as a term of approbation for things demonstrating acuteness or ingenious design, and so it went on to develop its own sense of "pretty, fetching."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.