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 2007You'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 2005Despite 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
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.