adjective in·scru·ta·ble \ in-ˈskrü-tə-bəl \
Updated on: 30 Jan 2018

Definition of inscrutable

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


play \in-ˌskrü-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \in-ˈskrü-tə-bəl-nəs\ noun


play \in-ˈskrü-tə-blē\ adverb

inscrutable was our Word of the Day on 08/22/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of inscrutable in a Sentence

  1. Supersymmetry is a magic mirror, and everything in what we imagine to be the real world has its ghostly, inscrutable mirror image. —Ian StewartProspectSeptember 2003
  2. Of all the myths that have grown up around Alan Greenspan, the most powerful is the idea that he's willfully inscrutable. —James SurowieckiNew Yorker22 Jan. 2001
  3. 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. SummersJournal of American HistoryDecember 2000
  4. an inscrutable work of art

  5. He was a quiet, inscrutable man.

Recent Examples of inscrutable from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of inscrutable

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

INSCRUTABLE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of inscrutable for English Language Learners

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

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