Definition of cryptic
3 : serving to conceal <cryptic coloration in animals>; also : exhibiting cryptic coloration <cryptic animals>
4 : not recognized <a cryptic infection>
5 : employing cipher or code
crypticallyplay \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
Examples of cryptic in a sentence
… his hectic characters either communicate in choppy or cryptic exchanges or rattle on in breathless recitations full of contradictions and asides. —Donna Seaman, Booklist, 15 Mar. 1994
Since Hughes's poems contained neither Eliot's footnotes nor Ezra Pound's cryptic orientalism, many critics and editors assumed the poet unintelligent and his work raw or, at best, slight. —Rita Dove, New York Times Book Review, 9 Oct. 1988
The remark seemed cryptic to Philip, but when he heard her say it two or three times to different persons, and found that it aroused hearty agreement, he came to the conclusion that it was only obscure to his own intelligence. —W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage, 1915
His instructions were cryptic. He said only to wait until we felt certain the answer was clear.
<puzzled by the cryptic e-mail message left on his computer>
Did You Know?
The history of "cryptic" starts with "kryptein," a Greek word meaning "to hide." Can you uncover other "kryptein" relatives in English? Not surprisingly, crypt, meaning "underground chamber," is one. The element "krypton" would be another correct guess, and so would "apocrypha," which can mean "writings of dubious authenticity." "Kryptein" also gave us several words having to do with secret codes, such as "cryptogram" ("a communication in cipher or code") and "cryptography" ("the coding and decoding of secret messages"). And, in fact, something "cryptic" can sometimes seem as if written in code.
Origin and Etymology of cryptic
Late Latin crypticus, from Greek kryptikos, from kryptos
First Known Use: 1620
Synonym Discussion of cryptic
CRYPTIC Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of cryptic for English Language Learners
: difficult to understand : having or seeming to have a hidden meaning
CRYPTIC Defined for Kids
Definition of cryptic for Students
: difficult to understand or make sense of <He left a cryptic message.>
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up cryptic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).