What Does "Cutting Edge" Mean?

Jim B.

"Cutting edge" is an English idiom used to describe something that is particularly advanced or brand new in terms of innovation. This idiom gained popularity in the 1950s and is still commonly used today to describe anything which is novel to the public. Literally, the idiom "cutting edge" is another way to describe the sharpest blade of an implement, like a plow, used to cut through things. The modern usage of the phrase often comes when someone is describing some sort of technological advance or artistic achievement that is different that anything that came before it.

The most recent advancements in modern technology might be described as "cutting edge."
The most recent advancements in modern technology might be described as "cutting edge."

Phrases and expressions that take on a meaning somewhat different than the literal definitions of the words that comprise them are known as idioms. Over time, idioms come to mean something that can be wildly divergent from the meaning of the phrase when it originated. Such phrases offer a way for speakers to strike a colloquial and colorful tone. Many idioms are used to describe things that are innovative and different. One of the most popular of these is the idiomatic expression "cutting edge."

An innovative TV or film director might be applauded for his "cutting edge" work.
An innovative TV or film director might be applauded for his "cutting edge" work.

If something is described in this manner, it often means that it using new technology that hasn't been experienced by the public at large before. Computer technology often gets labeled in this manner if it is new and unique. For example, consider the sentence, "I've never seen a laptop computer that can do all of those things; that is truly cutting edge technology." In this example, the phrase shows the extent to which the technology is exceptionally impressive and innovative.

This idiomatic expression is often used to describe someone or something in the artistic community. People who take in lots of pop culture such as movies, books, and television are often looking for things that they haven't seen or heard before, and those innovators who can deliver something new are often described in the glowing terms afforded by this expression. As an example, someone might say, "He has been making cutting edge films for so long that I can't wait to see how he'll surprise me with his next movie."

This phrase is also related to the adjective "edgy," which, in certain contexts, also describes something new and different. The phrase can also be extended, such as when someone describes something as being "on the cutting edge." No matter what version is used, this expression has evolved greatly from its original literal meaning as the sharpest part of a tool.

Movie production companies are constantly trying to be on the "cutting edge" with their films to draw attention.
Movie production companies are constantly trying to be on the "cutting edge" with their films to draw attention.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I think one reason some people are slower at taking advantage of cutting edge ideas is because it involves change.

Many people are uncomfortable with change and slow to accept it. Usually something that is cutting edge means a change in the way something is done.

I think this is one reason why you see so many young people get on board with these ideas. They are not as 'set in their ways', and many of them actually look forward to changes and new ways of doing things.

I always look forward to cutting edge technology and wish that I could afford a lot of the new products that come out every year.


I am usually a little slow at embracing cutting edge products and services. I made an exception to this when they came out with cutting edge laser treatments for your eyes.

Ever since I can remember I had worn glasses or contacts, and was very excited at the thought of being able to have great vision without them.

I used my income tax money to have laser eye treatment done on my eyes. I could tell a difference as soon as I left the office. It was amazing to me that I could see clearly without needing corrective lenses.

This is one time when I was glad that I didn't wait so long to take advantage of a cutting edge procedure.


@animegal - If you are looking for cutting edge media I would suggest taking a look at viral marketing online and things like YouTube, as a news medium. For myself, I love cutting edge promotions because you never really know what is being sold until you have gotten pretty involved in the marketing.

One of the most fun viral marketing campaigns that I can remember was for the movie Cloverfield. The amount of effort that went in to making the fake websites and buzz about illegal deep-sea drilling really caught people's attention. There is just so much cutting edge media out there, you just need to think outside the box a bit.


Can anyone give me some examples of some cutting edge media?

My friends and I are working on a project and want to discuss some of the recent trends in media. We've already worked in social networking and things like blogs, but we're getting kind of stuck for material now.

Our teacher is really big on us finding the newest cutting edge media, which is requiring far more investigative research than we were counting on. I am hoping that we can find something really unique online and wrap up our presentation quickly. I would hate to have this work drag on, as we were counting on getting it done early so we could focus on other projects.


I run a small business and we are always looking for cutting edge solutions to our work related problems. We recently started to promote telecommuting for our workers, as it not only saves them on commuting costs but it cuts done our expenses as well. It is really nice not to have to pay for a larger office space anymore or even simple things like more printer ink.

We've also found that now that we are offering cutting edge supply options for our workers that productivity has gone up. With all of our staff armed with the latest laptops, tablets, and phones, we never have to worry about losing someone when they are in the middle of an important task.


I use the idioms "cutting-edge" and "state of the art" pretty often. They're similar in meaning because state of the art is also used for new and most up to date things. But state of the art is a little different because it also means that this advancement is unique and different from all others in that field.

For the most part though, I think they can be interchangeable.


@burcinc-- There is a similar idiom: "bleeding-edge" that is usually used to talk about a new technology that is risky and a little dangerous. I agree with you that "cutting-edge" is definitely positive and desirable. Something not so desirable or dependable can be said to be on the "bleeding-edge."

The origin of various idioms are really interesting. I wonder what the exact circumstance was that lead to the birth of this one.

I think it might have been taken almost literally from a knife. A knife has several edges, but only one edge is sharp and effective in cutting things. Similarly, if we were talking about a film producer that usually is the first one out of many producers to film a previously never filmed subject or story, he would be like the cutting edge of the knife. He would be said to make cutting-edge movies.

When I think of it this way, it makes a lot of sense.


I think it's also important to point out that "cutting edge" has a favorable and positive meaning. It does refer to new and innovative things, but it's used when those advancements are exciting and positive. I've never heard this idiom used for things which are negative or undesirable despite being new.

I don't think anyone would refer to a new nuclear weapon in the hands of an unfriendly government as "cutting edge." Because cutting edge also implies that it is liked and desired by people. That's why it's important for technology companies which produce gadgets to be known for their "cutting edge products." It's because people want these products and they can't wait for the next best one to be produced and released.

The same goes for any firm really, whether it's cutting edge marketing or media, it implies you're one of the best in that market. Firms that have cutting edge products and services are leaders in that sector.

Post your comments
Forgot password?