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

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 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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Considering reports broke in January that the couple had split, some followers thought Malik's recent cold yet cryptic tweets were aimed at his ex. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Zayn Malik Defends Gigi Hadid After She Shut Down Dating Rumors Linking Her to Selena Gomez's Ex," 5 Apr. 2019 Following this drama, Jeffree posted some cryptic tweets seemingly hinting at the concealer leak. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Someone Leaked Jeffree Star’s New Concealers and Now the FBI is Getting Involved," 2 Apr. 2019 So that is incredibly cryptic (also, Arya would absolutely not want to face off against Undead Ned) but chances are the words and the scene are connected somehow. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Is Arya's Reanimated Family What She's Running From In 'Game of Thrones'?," 19 Apr. 2019 Prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor people, because Ziva is very much alive (and finding time to send cryptic messages, too). Megan Stein, Country Living, "'NCIS' Shocks Fans With a Major Reveal About Ziva," 13 Feb. 2019 For someone who's typically transparent with her fans, Grande's being quite cryptic about this rumor. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Ariana Grande's Fans Think She's Been Wearing Her Engagement Ring for Days," 12 June 2018 Durant, himself, was cryptic in the wake of Game 7 in Houston. Andrew Sharp,, "Kevin Durant Won't Leave the Warriors, But Maybe He Should," 8 June 2018 The episode is bookended by a very cryptic and brief moment between Jack and Nicky, in which the latter doesn’t yet speak. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Is Us Season 3 Episode 4 Finally Introduces Jack's Brother Nicky," 17 Oct. 2018 She's been known to hide cryptic messages and clues about her work just about everywhere in the time between album releases: Her clothes, her music video sets, even games of Scrabble. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Taylor Swift Fans Are Convinced That Her New Music Will Be About Mermaids," 3 Jan. 2019

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

8 May 2019

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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 How to pronounce cryptic (audio) \

Kids Definition of cryptic

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


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

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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