• The highest, best, or most impressive point that something reaches, especially one which is ideal in value or performance


Why did Wile E. Coyote always buy his rockets, giant rubber bands, and other contraptions from the Acme Corporation? Probably for the same reason that anyone would buy something from a company called Acme: with a name that indicates products that are "at the top" of their field, why wouldn't you be interested? Unfortunately for the Coyote, Acme devices never worked perfectly (or at all) for him, often even backfiring in his face. Ironically, this merchandise landed him at the bottom of cliffs and canyons more often than bringing him to any acmes.

In general, you can think of an acme as the highest point that something reaches or can reach. The word is especially useful for describing physical places - for example, you might say that a building's acme is its top story or that a plane reaches an acme at the highest point of its flight. You'll commonly hear it used in this way in geography, where the acme of a certain terrain represents its largest elevation. Figuratively, though, an acme can refer to the best or most valuable point that anything reaches in any measurable category. Your social media presence, then, would be at its acme when your Twitter account has the most followers it ever will. Though this meaning often lends itself to a specific point, an acme can just as easily represent a period of time during which something is at a maximum.

Sometimes, acme can indicate a little more than just a high number or magnitude. Often the word will suggest that something has reached an ideal, that it's at a point that perfectly captures its essence or that symbolizes the best it ever had the potential to be. Things at these heights are often highly respected and considered exemplary; think of the acmes reached by the Greek Empire during the reign of Alexander the Great and the Beatles with the release of the White Album. Acmes like these often seem desirable, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. They're often subjective, especially if you're talking about unquantifiable qualities like greatness, influence, and artistry (who knows, we may have just alienated a bunch of Sgt. Pepper's fans). Plus, an acme can't be permanent, or else it wouldn't be able to exist at all. You can think of acmes as existing on the topmost point of an arc - sure it's a nice place to be, but you can only go down on either side.

Example: Standing atop the acme, we had an extraordinary view of the rest of the mountain range.

Example: Unfortunately, the Sun was at its acme, and we were sweating buckets.

Example: Getting to the top of that range was probably the acme of my mountain-climbing career.

Example: To this day I'm glad I didn't chicken out, but instead kept climbing even during the acme of my fear.

Example: (Medical) The fever reached its acme sometime last night.


Mountains, arcs, and many other objects seem to become narrower as their heights increase, coming to a sharp (or sharper) peak at the very top. It makes sense, then, why acme's earliest ancestor is the Proto-Indo-European root ak­-, which, meaning "sharp" or "edged," is also related to the modern English words acute, acumen, and acrid. Ak- would serve as the basis for the Greek word akmē, which, while generally referring to any "point or edge," can often specifically indicate something's "highest point." English speakers would add the c and adopt acme by 1620.

In Literature

From Sun Tzu's The Art of War:

To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.

In this terse passage, Tzu claims that to reach the acme, or ideal state, of military brilliance, generals must be able to map out paths to success far ahead of what their peers can see.

In Pop Culture

Over the course of the twentieth century, Acme came to be used by American speakers as a generic name to give to fictional or hypothetical companies and products. This likely began in the first few decades of the century, when many businesses called themselves Acme (Acme Brick, Acme Drugs, etc.) both because of the word's positive meaning and because it would get them listed at the front of telephone directories. This practice was used especially by the company Sears, which labeled many of the products listed in their popular catalogs with Acme. Acme as a generic company and product name would definitively enter pop culture with its use in the Road Runner cartoons of the 50s and 60s.


Although many American companies have adopted the name Acme, one of the most successful has been Acme Markets Inc., a supermarket chain founded in Philadelphia that now operates throughout the Mid-Atlantic Northeast.


  • I'm my best me at my acme


Arc, Mountain, Cartoons, Point, Edge

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of acme. Did you use acme in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.