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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Through conversations with an unseen neighbor and after a series of inscrutable tests, Nell gradually concocts an escape plan. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2022 Is the thoroughly inscrutable David Hanson a genius or a charlatan? Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 June 2022 That moment returns to mind in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, in which yet another group of innocents was slain for arbitrary, inscrutable reasons. The New Yorker, 4 June 2022 The 23-year-old Irish actress is the compelling lead of the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends, starring as Frances, a college student who begins an affair with handsome, older actor (played by an inscrutable Joe Alwyn). Emily Burack, Town & Country, 20 May 2022 The factory is inscrutable yet material, its very scale deflating workers’ sense of worth. Stephen Kearse, The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2022 Three films in, J.K. Rowling's sumptuous, inscrutable series remains a mystery, a lacquered box of whimsy that lives just adjacent to Harry Potter and somehow much further from a sensical plot. Leah Greenblatt,, 15 Apr. 2022 These challenges — byzantine catalogs, an inscrutable internal language, a lack of access to materials — impact historians along with anyone whose field benefits from an understanding of the past. Hallel Yadin, Longreads, 24 Mar. 2022 Our daughters played in the old grain silo, filched cookies from the pastry kitchen, drew a dozen inscrutable pictures. Aria Beth Sloss, Bon Appétit, 22 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

24 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Inscrutable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on inscrutable

Nglish: Translation of inscrutable for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inscrutable for Arabic Speakers


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