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 Sometimes, the regime’s plans can seem inscrutable. Manyin Li, National Review, "What China Really Wants: A New World Order," 7 Mar. 2021 But that screen history has also provided a reliable reflection of how Asians and Asian Americans have existed in the national consciousness, as inscrutable, as exotic, as monolithic, as untrustworthy, or as barely present at all. Alison Willmore, Vulture, "What Was the Asian American Character Actor?," 26 Mar. 2021 Gloom and dread, prompted by an inscrutable new opponent named COVID-19, seemed to deepen by the hour. Childs Walker,, "The day sports stopped: How Maryland coaches and athletes remember the start of the pandemic and the year that followed," 11 Mar. 2021 Sort of like the way everyone mindlessly clicks on the terms of service acceptance button, even though no one bothers reading all the inscrutable legal jargon therein. Jacob Siegal, BGR, "Google doesn’t want you to update these settings on your Apple device," 26 Feb. 2021 The lawsuit underscores the complex legal and financial gears nudging tenants toward eviction while remaining inscrutable to most renters. Washington Post, "Eviction is big business for this law firm. Tenants say it buries them with unfair fees.," 18 Feb. 2021 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

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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Time Traveler for inscrutable

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

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Last Updated

13 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inscrutable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 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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