enigmatic

adjective
enig·​mat·​ic | \ ˌe-(ˌ)nig-ˈma-tik also ˌē-(ˌ)nig- \
variants: or less commonly enigmatical \ ˌe-​(ˌ)nig-​ˈma-​ti-​kəl \

Definition of enigmatic

: of, relating to, or resembling an enigma : mysterious

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Other Words from enigmatic

enigmatically \ ˌe-​(ˌ)nig-​ˈma-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for enigmatic

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 Origin of Enigmatic Isn't a Mystery

When it comes to things that aren't clearly understandable, you have a wide range of word choices, including dark, enigmatic, cryptic, and equivocal. Of these, dark is the most sinister, implying an imperfect or clouded revelation, often with ominous overtones. Enigmatic (which traces back to Greek ainissesthai, meaning "to speak in riddles") emphasizes a puzzling, mystifying quality, whereas cryptic implies a purposely concealed meaning. Equivocal is the best choice for language that is left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading.

Examples of enigmatic in a Sentence

Space seethes with an enormous enigmatic energy, and, each second, trillions of cubic light-years more of it materializes from nothingness. — Bob Berman, Astronomy, November 2007 You'll recognize them by their enigmatic smile and faraway look as they jog, skate, commute, or wander the aisles of the supermarket. Consumer Reports, December 2005 Despite all that has been written—and surmised—about him, Bill Gates remains the enigmatic ringmaster of the digital circus. — J. D. Reed, People, 15 Mar. 1999 the discovery of the abandoned ship in mid ocean remains one of the most enigmatic episodes in seafaring history the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile
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Recent Examples on the Web

Set in postwar England, the story begins in 1945 with a 14-year-old boy who has been left, along with his older sister, in the care of two enigmatic London criminal types: the Moth and the Darter. WSJ, "Who Read What in 2018: Fiction and Literature," 10 Dec. 2018 Archaeologists are piecing together more details about how the Rapanui people once erected the formerly enigmatic stone statues, or moai. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "How did Easter Islanders survive without wells or streams?," 17 Oct. 2018 Fans of the original series, which took the world by storm in the 1970s, will likely point out that there was originally just one Bosley, the enigmatic head of the show’s fictional detective agency. Dan Barna, Teen Vogue, "Noah Centineo Will Star in the "Charlie's Angels" Reboot," 2 Oct. 2018 Ultimately, Zoë opts for the former — but leaves one of their passengers, the enigmatic pastor Shepherd Book, behind to investigate. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Big Damn Hero is a familiar trip back to Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe," 20 Nov. 2018 Banksy, the enigmatic street artist and provocateur, intentionally sabotaged one of his famous paintings at a Sotheby's auction last week, using a paper shredder hidden in the frame to chew the canvas into bits. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Here's a Look Inside Banksy's $1.4 Million Paper Shredder," 18 Oct. 2018 Despite his global fame, Leonardo remains in many respects as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa’s smile. John Hooper, WSJ, "Exhibits Mark 500 Years of Leonardo da Vinci, the Original Renaissance Man," 31 Oct. 2018 When Will and Phoebe’s relationship begins to falter, there’s another project waiting in the wings in the personage of The Incendiaries’ enigmatic third main character, John Leal. Constance Grady, Vox, "In R.O. Kwon’s terrific new novel The Incendiaries, a cultist looks for meaning in tragedy," 3 Aug. 2018 As for the documentary, Davis pulled off the rare trick of baring her soul while remaining completely enigmatic – and the director pulled off the deft balancing act of telling the story of a woman who clearly only wants so much of her life unveiled. Joe Lynch, Billboard, "Erykah Badu Reads Message From Reclusive Funk Icon Betty Davis at Documentary Screening," 24 May 2018

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

1609, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for enigmatic

see enigma

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Statistics for enigmatic

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for enigmatic

The first known use of enigmatic was in 1609

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More Definitions for enigmatic

enigmatic

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of enigmatic

: full of mystery and difficult to understand

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