abstruse

adjective
ab·​struse | \ əb-ˈstrüs How to pronounce abstruse (audio) , ab- \

Definition of abstruse

formal
: difficult to comprehend : recondite the abstruse calculations of mathematicians abstruse concepts/ideas/theories

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Other Words from abstruse

abstrusely adverb
abstruseness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for abstruse

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Obtuse vs. Abstruse

Obtuse, which comes to us from the Latin word obtusus, meaning "dull" or "blunt," can describe an angle that is not acute or a person who is mentally "dull" or slow of mind. The word has also developed a somewhat controversial sense of "hard to comprehend," probably as a result of confusion with abstruse. This sense of obtuse is well established, and it is now possible to speak of "obtuse language" and "obtuse explanations," as well as "obtuse angles" and "obtuse readers"; however, it may attract some criticism. If you're hesitant about using new meanings of words, you should probably stick with abstruse when you want a word meaning "difficult to understand."

Latin Ties Things Together With Abstruse

Look closely at the following Latin verbs, all of which are derived from the verb "trudere" ("to push"): "extrudere," "intrudere," "obtrudere," "protrudere." Each of these Latin verbs has an English descendant whose meaning involves pushing or thrusting. Another "trudere" offspring, abstrudere, meaning "to push away" or "to conceal," gave English abstrude, meaning "to thrust away." But that verb didn't make it past the 17th century. The "abstrudere" descendant that did survive is "abstruse," an adjective that recalls the meaning of its Latin parent abstrusus, meaning "concealed."

Examples of abstruse in a Sentence

Her subject matter is abstruse. you're not the only one who finds Einstein's theory of relativity abstruse
Recent Examples on the Web In 2014, Valentino Gantz, a 30-year-old graduate student in biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego, was struggling to finish his thesis — an abstruse project about wing development in flies. Jennifer Kahn, New York Times, "The Gene Drive Dilemma: We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?," 8 Jan. 2020 More than many other abstruse areas of higher mathematics, chaos theory has captured the public imagination. Martin Weil, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitchell Feigenbaum, an architect of chaos theory, dies at 74," 14 July 2019 Hour-long conversations would oscillate between abstruse metaphors representing indebtedness and poverty, and an equally opaque jargon composed of math and finance-speak. Elena Botella, The New Republic, "I Worked at Capital One for Five Years. This Is How We Justified Piling Debt on Poor Customers.," 2 Oct. 2019 More than many other abstruse areas of higher mathematics, chaos theory has captured the public imagination. Martin Weil, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitchell Feigenbaum, an architect of chaos theory, dies at 74," 14 July 2019 On her site, Lab Muffin (labmuffin.com), the chemist demystifies scientific lingo and product labels to help inform laypeople and promote critical thinking about abstruse beauty claims. Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "25 People Changing the Beauty Industry," 3 Sep. 2019 More than many other abstruse areas of higher mathematics, chaos theory has captured the public imagination. Martin Weil, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitchell Feigenbaum, an architect of chaos theory, dies at 74," 14 July 2019 More than many other abstruse areas of higher mathematics, chaos theory has captured the public imagination. Martin Weil, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitchell Feigenbaum, an architect of chaos theory, dies at 74," 14 July 2019 More than many other abstruse areas of higher mathematics, chaos theory has captured the public imagination. Martin Weil, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitchell Feigenbaum, an architect of chaos theory, dies at 74," 14 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abstruse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of abstruse

circa 1549, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for abstruse

borrowed from Latin abstrūsus "concealed, recondite," from past participle of abstrūdere "to conceal," from abs- (variant of ab- ab- before c- and t-) + trūdere "to push, thrust" — more at threat entry 1

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The first known use of abstruse was circa 1549

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abstruse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstruse. Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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