Kaf·​ka·​esque | \ ˌkäf-kə-ˈesk How to pronounce Kafkaesque (audio) , ˌkaf- How to pronounce Kafkaesque (audio) \

Definition of Kafkaesque

: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings especially : having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays

Kafkaesque Literature

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka's work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.

First Known Use of Kafkaesque

1939, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Kafkaesque

Time Traveler for Kafkaesque

Time Traveler

The first known use of Kafkaesque was in 1939

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about Kafkaesque

Statistics for Kafkaesque

Cite this Entry

“Kafkaesque.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Kafkaesque. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on Kafkaesque

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for Kafkaesque

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with Kafkaesque

Comments on Kafkaesque

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of probity?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!