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

Definition of abstruse

: 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 If the bank’s lawyers are right, the plot was extraordinarily abstruse. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, "The Contested Afterlife of the Trump-Alfa Bank Story," 7 Oct. 2020 Forget the expertise and abstruse calculations for a moment. Erik Sherman, Fortune, "Most second quarter GDP forecasts now range from horrible (-8%) to catastrophic (-15%)," 20 Mar. 2020 Its mathematical underpinnings might be abstruse and theoretical, but in the 20th century those theories handed blunt, world-changing power to nations that could master their applications. The Economist, "Infinite possibilities Freeman Dyson died on February 28th," 12 Mar. 2020 Last year, researchers with Google claimed their small quantum computer performed an abstruse calculation that would have taken conventional supercomputers millennia. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Chance discovery brings quantum computing using standard microchips a step closer," 11 Mar. 2020 This abstruse category of occupations includes architects, lawyers, artists, educators, doctors, and engineers, just to name a few. NBC News, "Gender economist Katica Roy: Want to be a CEO? Don't let this No. 1 factor hold you back," 11 Mar. 2020 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Abstruse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abstruse. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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