inscrutable

adjective
in·​scru·​ta·​ble | \ in-ˈskrü-tə-bəl \

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 \ noun
inscrutableness \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​bəl-​nəs \ noun
inscrutably \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​blē \ 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

Yet the noisy Algerian press, which habitually decodes the often inscrutable world of politics, has been unable to decipher the reason for the massive clearout. Aomar Ouali And Elaine Ganley, Fox News, "Algerian generals, others fired without explanation," 12 Sep. 2018 Now, the rankings of search engines are the result of inscrutable and anonymous yet authoritative-seeming processes that can sometimes hide falsity and bias. Edward Tenner, Time, "Search Engines May Seem All-Knowing, But They’re Not. Here’s How to Get More Trustworthy Results," 26 June 2018 Sentinels — those inscrutable, flying protectors of the galaxy — seem especially abundant here, scanning everything in sight despite that everything is dead. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "No Man’s Sky travel diary: journey to the center of the universe," 22 Aug. 2018 Despite the change in background, the trademark Yuskavage bombshell—buxom, beguiling, inscrutable—was still there. Thomas Gebremedhin, WSJ, "Lisa Yuskavage’s Art Continues to Defy Characterization," 6 Nov. 2018 The effect is of watching an oracle divine fearsome and inscrutable truths from on high, then render them into stories fit for mortals. Jordan Larson, The Cut, "Rachel Cusk’s Rules for Living," 25 June 2018 His gaze was inscrutable behind aviator sunglasses. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "SpaceX’s hyperloop race was all about ‘maximum speed’ (and celebrating Elon Musk)," 28 July 2018 But foreign states do not have the luxury of shrugging off the American president’s thinking as an inscrutable mystery. New York Times, "How Trump’s Mixed Signals Complicate America’s Role in the World," 27 Apr. 2018 Her arrival coincides with that of a powerful general (a scarily inscrutable Bill Camp) and the discussion of a new allotment treaty, one that will severely limit the Sioux’s land and food rations if passed. Justin Chang, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘Woman Walks Ahead’ paints a timid picture," 4 July 2018

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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Last Updated

12 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for inscrutable

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

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More Definitions for inscrutable

inscrutable

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of inscrutable

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

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