cryp·​tic | \ˈkrip-tik \

Definition of cryptic 

1 : secret, occult

2a : having or seeming to have a hidden or ambiguous meaning : mysterious cryptic messages cryptic prophecies

b : marked by an often perplexing brevity cryptic marginal notes

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

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Other Words from cryptic

cryptically \ˈkrip-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for cryptic

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

The Mysterious Origins of Cryptic

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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Grande appears to confirm via a series of cryptic tweets, likes, and replies. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "A Timeline of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s 0 to 100 Relationship," 14 July 2018 To our despair, Zayn didn’t give any additional details other than the cryptic yet revealing phrase. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Zayn Malik Potentially Revealed the Truth About a Famous Taylor Swift Conspiracy Theory," 15 Nov. 2018 The hostage takers are never seen or heard, communicating only via a few cryptic emails. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘Viper Club’: Susan Sarandon brings grace, heartbreaking power to hostage drama," 30 Oct. 2018 Her cryptic abstractions—fueled by a host of private, occult and religious sources—are intriguing, sometimes fascinating. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future’ Review: Modernism’s Missing Link?," 13 Oct. 2018 The first known case of rat hepatitis jumping to a human patient has reopened a long-standing mystery of how the cryptic viruses spread and bounce between humans and animal reservoirs. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Rat hepatitis jumps to human for first time, spotlighting disease mystery," 2 Oct. 2018 Season 2 left fans worried about the fate of Beth after a cryptic conversation shown between Randall and Tess during a flash-forward. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Everything We Know About 'This Is Us' Season 3," 26 July 2018 Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is ready to take on former foe Donald Trump after trolling the president in a cryptic video posted on his Twitter page Wednesday morning. Lexy Perez, The Hollywood Reporter, "Sacha Baron Cohen Trolls Trump With Mysterious July Fourth Message," 4 July 2018 This settles speculation that Madonna had been working with Grande recently, after Grande posted a cryptic post thanking Madonna. Connor Whittum, Billboard, "Ariana Grande Debuts Galaxy-Spanning 'God Is a Woman' Video: Watch," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cryptic.' 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 cryptic

1620, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for cryptic

borrowed from Late Latin crypticus "hidden," borrowed from Late Greek kryptikós "obscuring" (Greek kryptikôs "secretly"), from kryptós "hidden, secret" + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at crypt

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Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for cryptic

The first known use of cryptic was in 1620

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More Definitions for cryptic



English Language Learners Definition of cryptic

: difficult to understand : having or seeming to have a hidden meaning


cryp·​tic | \ˈkrip-tik \

Kids Definition of cryptic

: difficult to understand or make sense of He left a cryptic message.


cryp·​tic | \ˈkrip-tik \

Medical Definition of cryptic 

1 : serving to conceal cryptic coloration in animals

2 : not recognized a cryptic infection cryptic cases of lead poisoning

Other Words from cryptic

cryptically \-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on cryptic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cryptic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cryptic

Spanish Central: Translation of cryptic

Nglish: Translation of cryptic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cryptic for Arabic Speakers

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