cryptic

adjective
cryp·​tic | \ ˈkrip-tik How to pronounce cryptic (audio) \

Definition of cryptic

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from cryptic

cryptically \ ˈkrip-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cryptically (audio) \ 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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web But whereas Eugenides treated the Lisbons as unknowable enigmas, whose tragic endings are seen as mysteries to be unraveled, Coppola focused on the sisters' rich inner lives — cryptic and hidden, to be sure, but also devastatingly human. Devan Coggan, EW.com, "Sofia Coppola and The Virgin Suicides cast reunite to talk 20th anniversary," 18 June 2020 Police detected carbon monoxide permeating the house and called in a bomb squad robot after finding a cryptic note warning of bodies inside. Sig Christenson, ExpressNews.com, "GI found dead with his family in San Antonio home had served in Iraq," 6 June 2020 Usually, public criticism from a bad Times op-ed, from regular offenders Bret Stephens or Bari Weiss, is limited to cryptic subtweets. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "At The New York Times, an Uprising Over James Bennet’s Incompetence," 4 June 2020 The episode titles were getting stranger and more cryptic, containing secret messages about being prisoners. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Here’s The Drama Happening With The “Call Her Daddy” Podcast," 22 May 2020 Among the usual suspects of Instagram, Facebook and TikTok appeared an app called Stepchickens, with a cryptic blue selfie as its logo. Taylor Lorenz, New York Times, "Step Chickens and the Rise of TikTok ‘Cults’," 26 May 2020 The episode titles were getting stranger and more cryptic, containing secret messages about being prisoners. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Here’s The Drama Happening With The “Call Her Daddy” Podcast," 21 May 2020 Clunky dialogue simultaneously explains too much while not explaining enough, and the initial standoff between the spacemen and the cryptic machine-defenders goes on too long for the allegory Blood Machines clearly is. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "At the end of time and space are phat beats: Blood Machines movie review," 20 May 2020 But things take a darker turn when officials begin tracking a series of cryptic, ritualistic killings. Hannah Walhout, Travel + Leisure, "13 Scandinavian TV Shows Worth Binge-watching (Video)," 19 May 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cryptic

Time Traveler for cryptic

Time Traveler

The first known use of cryptic was in 1620

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about cryptic

Statistics for cryptic

Last Updated

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cryptic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cryptic. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cryptic

cryptic

adjective
How to pronounce cryptic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cryptic

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

cryptic

adjective
cryp·​tic | \ ˈkrip-tik How to pronounce cryptic (audio) \

Kids Definition of cryptic

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

cryptic

adjective
cryp·​tic | \ ˈkrip-tik How to pronounce cryptic (audio) \

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 How to pronounce cryptically (audio) \ adverb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on cryptic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cryptic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cryptic

Spanish Central: Translation of cryptic

Nglish: Translation of cryptic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cryptic for Arabic Speakers

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!