in·​scru·​ta·​ble | \ in-ˈskrü-tə-bəl How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \

Definition of inscrutable

: not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood : mysterious an inscrutable smile inscrutable motives

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Other Words from inscrutable

inscrutability \ in-​ˌskrü-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ noun
inscrutableness \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ noun
inscrutably \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​blē How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

You may have to scrutinize this word closely in order to speculate as to its origins, but there is at least one clue in this sentence. Inscrutable derives from the Late Latin adjective inscrutabilis, which can be traced back to the verb scrutari, meaning "to search or to examine." "Scrutari" is also the source of the English words "scrutinize" and "scrutiny." Incidentally, the antonym "scrutable" ("capable of being deciphered or understood") is a part of our language as well, though it's less common than "inscrutable."

Examples of inscrutable in a Sentence

Supersymmetry is a magic mirror, and everything in what we imagine to be the real world has its ghostly, inscrutable mirror image. — Ian Stewart, Prospect, September 2003 Of all the myths that have grown up around Alan Greenspan, the most powerful is the idea that he's willfully inscrutable. — James Surowiecki, New Yorker, 22 Jan. 2001 That wily politicians might adopt Franklin's distinction between appearance and reality to become inscrutable confidence men did not seem to trouble him. — John H. Summers, Journal of American History, December 2000 an inscrutable work of art He was a quiet, inscrutable man.
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Recent Examples on the Web But Texas tends to be as inscrutable as Sims in the second half of games. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Jericho Sims, Courtney Ramey power No. 15 Texas past No. 16 Oklahoma," 4 Mar. 2021 The company is often inscrutable about the technical details of how its products and security features really work. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Apple Offers Its Closest Look Yet at iOS and MacOS Security," 18 Feb. 2021 Both publicly and privately, Shultz could be inscrutable. Jeremy Carl, Washington Examiner, "George Shultz, 1920-2021," 11 Feb. 2021 An elderly man with dreadlocks and a beard—his tufts of white hair drawn in pale charcoal, his creased eyes suggesting his weariness—conveys an expression at once dynamic and inscrutable, a mixture of patience, knowingness, and disappointment. Leslie Jamison, The Atlantic, "The Breathtaking Ingenuity of Incarcerated Artists," 7 Feb. 2021 But the temporarily blocked link on the House Judiciary Committee website does not contain the images in question, making that brief ban even more inscrutable. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, "Twitter Goofed It," 15 Oct. 2020 And in a scene envisioned by soccer historian Jimmy Burns in a 1996 biography, life in Argentina came to a halt as well, as fans mourned the loss of a champion alternately invincible and incorrigible — and ultimately inscrutable. Liz Clarke, Washington Post, "Diego Maradona, inscrutable soccer star and Argentine legend, dies at 60," 25 Nov. 2020 For all the mystery surrounding Epstein’s fortune, its existence is hardly more inscrutable than the wealth of any of his other billionaire peers. Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Longreads, "Longreads Best of 2020: Investigative Reporting," 21 Dec. 2020 Few American songwriters have been as zealously exalted as Dylan—and few are as consistently inscrutable. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "Can You Really Buy Bob Dylan’s Songs?," 8 Dec. 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inscrutable

Middle English, from Late Latin inscrutabilis, from Latin in- + scrutari to search — more at scrutiny

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The first known use of inscrutable was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

8 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inscrutable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of inscrutable

formal : difficult to understand : causing people to feel curious or confused

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