adjective ob·scure \äb-ˈskyr, əb-\

: not well-known : not known to most people

: difficult to understand : likely to be understood by only a few people

: difficult or impossible to know completely and with certainty

Full Definition of OBSCURE

a :  dark, dim
b :  shrouded in or hidden by darkness
c :  not clearly seen or easily distinguished :  faint <obscure markings>
:  not readily understood or clearly expressed; also :  mysterious
:  relatively unknown: as
a :  remote, secluded <an obscure village>
b :  not prominent or famous <an obscure poet>
:  constituting the unstressed vowel \ə\ or having unstressed \ə\ as its value
ob·scure·ly adverb
ob·scure·ness noun

Examples of OBSCURE

  1. The movie is full of obscure references that only pop culture enthusiasts will understand.
  2. The origins of the language are obscure.
  3. Many people shared an obscure sense of gratification that [Dylan] Thomas had died young, as a poet should. —Adam Kirsch, New Yorker, 5 July 2004

Origin of OBSCURE

Middle English, from Anglo-French oscur, obscur, from Latin obscurus
First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of OBSCURE

obscure, dark, vague, enigmatic, cryptic, ambiguous, equivocal mean not clearly understandable. obscure implies a hiding or veiling of meaning through some inadequacy of expression or withholding of full knowledge <obscure poems>. dark implies an imperfect or clouded revelation often with ominous or sinister suggestion <muttered dark hints of revenge>. vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration <a vague sense of obligation>. enigmatic stresses a puzzling, mystifying quality <enigmatic occult writings>. cryptic implies a purposely concealed meaning <cryptic hints of hidden treasure>. ambiguous applies to language capable of more than one interpretation <an ambiguous directive>. equivocal applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading <moral precepts with equivocal phrasing>.


verb ob·scure \äb-ˈskyr, əb-\

: to make (something) difficult to understand or know : to make (something) obscure

: to hide or cover (something) : to be in front of (something) so that it cannot be seen


Full Definition of OBSCURE

transitive verb
:  to make dark, dim, or indistinct
:  to conceal or hide by or as if by covering
:  to reduce (a vowel) to the value \ə\
ob·scu·ra·tion \ˌäb-sky-ˈrā-shən\ noun

Examples of OBSCURE

  1. The true history has been obscured by legends about what happened.
  2. They accused the company of trying to obscure the fact that the product poses a health risk.
  3. Throughout this book, the ground of fact becomes obscured entirely by a deep layer of speculative quicksand. —Helen Vendler, New Republic, 10 June 2002

Origin of OBSCURE

(see 1obscure)
First Known Use: 15th century


noun ob·scure \äb-ˈskyr, əb-\

Definition of OBSCURE

:  obscurity

Examples of OBSCURE

  1. … who shall … through the palpable obscure find out his uncouth way …? —John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667

Origin of OBSCURE

(see 1obscure)
First Known Use: 1667


Next Word in the Dictionary: obscuredlyPrevious Word in the Dictionary: obscurativeAll Words Near: obscure
May 30, 2015
metadata Hear it
data about other data
Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears