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

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 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is fully visible in the frame but his thoughts remain just as inscrutable as the others, with his arms also crossed against his chest and his glance somewhere over Merkel's head. Amy B Wang, Washington Post, "The G-7 summit, summed up in one photo," 9 June 2018 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is fully visible in the frame but his thoughts remain just as inscrutable as the others', with his arms also crossed against his chest and his glance somewhere over Merkel's head. Amy B Wang,, "The combative G-7 summit, summed up in one surreal photo," 9 June 2018 Similarly, Filizadeh’s inkjet photo-prints of lavish if often inscrutable costume-dramas, often starring himself as static protagonist of the historical epic, makes him Tehran’s Eleanor Antin. Christopher Knight,, "In Iranian art show at LACMA, the past wrestles with the present," 4 June 2018 And yet there is a dimension to some people that seems inscrutable. John Blake, CNN, "He was called a 'guardian angel.' Then they discovered he was something else," 12 May 2018 The French national team at this World Cup has been about as inscrutable as French conjugation. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "France Puts It All Together to Advance to World Cup Semifinals," 6 July 2018 The degree to which Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary's Halcyon Theatre production delivers on those varies from recognizable but off the mark to downright inscrutable. Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader, "Caridad Svich attempts a "graphic novel for the stage" with De Troya," 31 May 2018 And Capela, as his pick-and-roll partner, has to see the truth beneath Harden’s inscrutable moves. Rob Mahoney,, "Breakaway: Clint Capela Stakes His Claim," 18 May 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

8 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for inscrutable

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

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English Language Learners Definition of inscrutable

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

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