What Does An Acid Test Mean?

Acid Test Meaning

Definition: A decisive trial; a sure way to arrive at a conclusion.

Origin of Acid Test

This expression comes from nitric acid, a chemical that someone invented in the 1700s.

Prospectors used this acid to test whether or not they had found legitimate gold. Over time, people began to use the expression figuratively. The figurative use of the expression has existed since the 1800’s.

Examples of Acid Test

what is the origin of the term acid testThis example shows two coworkers discussing a new printer that their company bought.

Regina: Hey Ginny! Look at this cool new printer. It’s huge, and it can print incredibly fast!

Ginny: Oh no. Not a new printer. Ugh!

Regina: Why? What don’t you like about it?

Ginny: Every time we get a new printer, it breaks almost immediately.

Regina: Well, I don’t think that will happen with this one. It was very expensive.

Ginny: Well, let’s try printing the 1,000 2-sided, collated pamphlets with staples for that rally. That will act as an acid test. If the printer can do that, it can do anything!

acid test meansIn this example, two friends are discussing whether or not one of them should date a woman he recently met.

Kevin: Hey, do you think I should date Arlena?

Steve: I don’t know. I guess so. Why not?

Kevin: Well, she seems really nice. But my last girlfriend seemed really nice, and then she turned out to be a really cruel person.

Steve: You know what you should do? You should take her out to dinner, and observe how she treats the waiters. That’s a good acid test to learn about someone’s true personality.

Kevin: Really?

Steve: Yeah! If she’s rude to the wait staff, she’ll probably be rude to other people too.

Kevin: Okay. I’ll try it.

More Examples

The excerpt below uses the original meaning of acid test. Jewelers use a literal acid test on gold.

  • Dealers determine purity with an acid test. They rub a piece of jewelry across a polishing stone – a flat, sandpaper-like surface – scraping away just enough of the highly malleable gold to leave a visible line. –OC Register

This excerpt is about a racehorse. Horse race enthusiasts believe that a certain race will act as a way to test the horse’s potential.

  • She is expected to remain at Saratoga to prepare for her next scheduled start here, in the prestigious Alabama on Aug. 20. Smith suggested that the first acid test of the filly’s career will do her good. –LA Times


The term acid test means a conclusive way to determine something.