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

The uniform adjustment comes over two weeks after Bauer made cryptic tweets that seemed to indicate some Astros pitchers use foreign substances to doctor baseballs in order to improve their spin rates. Matt Wyatt, Houston Chronicle, "Indians’ Trevor Bauer adds ‘Tyler’ to his jersey for Astros game," 18 May 2018 This past week, Khloé has been dropping some seriously cryptic hints about her love life on her various social media channels. Megan Decker, Harper's BAZAAR, "Khloé Kardashian Suggests She's Back with Tristan Thompson in These Cryptic Instagram Posts," 18 May 2018 In 2012, Beck Dorey-Stein answered a cryptic Craigslist ad for a job in Washington. Tessa Berenson, Time, "‘I Knew Everything About Him.’ An Obama White House Staffer on What It Was Like to Work For the Former President," 12 July 2018 In a cryptic 4th of July tweet, Cohen shared a video of Donald Trump ranting about Cohen. Rebecca Farley,, "Sacha Baron Cohen Reignites Old Feud With New Donald Trump-Themed Project," 5 July 2018 An indelible meeting’ Shatz was 27 and working in Prague as a foreign correspondent for a Hungarian newspaper when a cryptic postcard arrived in his mail. Hannah Natanson, Washington Post, "They survived the Holocaust, and then he rescued her from communism. Sixty-five years later, they’ve reunited.," 9 July 2018 There's no official confirmation from Justin or Hailey themselves yet, but Justin's dad, Jeremy Bieber, posted a cryptic Instagram that some fans see as proof that the proposal really happened. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin Are Reportedly Engaged," 8 July 2018 The head of the Egyptian FA, Hany Abo Rida, also insisted that Salah would stay with Egypt for the Saudi Arabia match, while making a cryptic reference to Liverpool., "'Everyone Is Together': Mohamed Salah Responds to Rumours Suggesting He Could Leave Egypt WC Camp," 22 June 2018 Jenn shared a cryptic tweet about domestic violence around the same time the news of her filing for divorce broke. Sasha Savitsky, Fox News, "Stone Temple Pilots' Dean DeLeo's wife files for divorce, claims he's an abusive drunk: report," 25 June 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

9 Oct 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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Comments on cryptic

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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