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

Other Words from cryptic

cryptically \ ˈkrip-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cryptic (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 cryptocurrency is currency that exists digitally and that relies on computer encryption (secret code) to prevent counterfeiting and fraud.

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
Recent Examples on the Web Some had gone missing, and some had stopped answering their phones after sending cryptic messages. Rozina Ali, The New Yorker, 24 Aug. 2022 There's also The Bachelorette, which has all of the sudden become the most dramatic show ever thanks to Jesse Palmer's cryptic message at the end of last week's episode. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, 11 Sep. 2022 Conspiracy theories exploit all three of these tools by publicizing cryptic but real photos, quotes and facts, and then layering wild and dangerous stories on top of them. Kareem Saleh, Forbes, 4 May 2021 After months of filming on location in Montana (and enjoying visits from his wife and kids), Cole shared a somewhat cryptic message on Instagram. Katie Bowlby, Country Living, 27 Aug. 2022 The next day, Green posted a cryptic message to Instagram, marking his wife’s birthday. ELLE, 21 Aug. 2022 The true identity of the man who commissioned the monoliths and the meaning behind its cryptic 10-part message inscribed in eight languages remain unknown. Amanda Pérez Pintado, USA TODAY, 19 Aug. 2022 Miller delivered a cryptic message aimed at a Ku Klux Klan chapter in North Carolina. Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Aug. 2022 In the control room, Bernard leaves a cryptic message on a tablet before coming face-to-face with the Host in Black, who monologues before shooting Bernard in the chest. Andrew Walsh,, 8 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of cryptic was in 1620

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cryptic species

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Last Updated

27 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cryptic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for cryptic


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 cryptic (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on cryptic

Nglish: Translation of cryptic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cryptic for Arabic Speakers


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