Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


adjective \ˈvāg\

Simple Definition of vague

  • : not clear in meaning : stated in a way that is general and not specific

  • : not thinking or expressing your thoughts clearly or precisely

  • : not completely formed or developed

Full Definition of vague


  1. 1 a :  not clearly expressed :  stated in indefinite terms <vague accusations> b :  not having a precise meaning <a vague term of abuse>

  2. 2 a :  not clearly defined, grasped, or understood :  indistinct <only a vague notion of what's needed>; also :  slight <a vague hint of a thickening waistline> <hasn't the vaguest idea> b :  not clearly felt or sensed :  somewhat subconscious <a vague longing>

  3. 3 :  not thinking or expressing one's thoughts clearly or precisely <vague about dates and places>

  4. 4 :  lacking expression :  vacant <vague eyes> <a vague stare>

  5. 5 :  not sharply outlined :  hazy <met by vague figures with shaded torchlights — Earle Birney>

vague·ly adverb
vague·ness noun

Examples of vague

  1. When my three years of military service ended, I looked around for some way to get to spend time in rural Vietnam as a civilian. The driving force was still primarily intellectual curiosity, along with a desire to improve my language ability in a non-Western language and some vague idea of doing folkloristic or literary studies in the future. —Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam, (1993) 1995

  2. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood. —Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, 1887

  3. At the end of half an hour Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no more, for his mind was traversing the whole field of human thought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. —Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, 1876

  4. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black. —Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843

  5. The instructions she left were vague and difficult to follow.

  6. He gave only a vague answer.

  7. The judges determined that the law was too vague to be fairly enforced.

  8. She has been vague about her plans for college.

  9. We had only a vague idea of where we were.

  10. I think I have a vague understanding of how it works.

  11. He longed in some vague way for something different.

  12. She felt a vague sense of uneasiness when she was around him.

  13. I had the vague impression that they were withholding information.

  14. We could just barely make out the vague outline of a plane in the sky.

Origin of vague

Middle French, from Latin vagus, literally, wandering

First Known Use: 1548

Synonym Discussion of vague

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>.

Rhymes with vague

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up vague? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

pince-nez spindrift duvet kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.