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 inscrutability (audio) \ noun
inscrutableness \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce inscrutableness (audio) \ noun
inscrutably \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​blē How to pronounce inscrutably (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 Trump's Christian proselytizers note, correctly, that the Bible is full of flawed people God used to achieve sometimes inscrutable ends. Peter Weber, TheWeek, "The Donald Trump heresy," 7 Feb. 2020 The episode is a reminder that religious communities have lots of rituals and rules, many of them unspoken and inscrutable to outside eyes -- including presidential candidates. Daniel Burke, CNN, "Andrew Yang sang with a black church choir. Not everyone said 'Amen'," 25 Jan. 2020 There is something strange and mysterious about the work of the Wooster Group, their performances so thrilling and yet inscrutable. David Gordon, Harper's magazine, "The Forty-Year Rehearsal," 6 Jan. 2020 But this vulnerable and inscrutable 12-4 team will be tuning up for Wild Card Weekend, opening the playoffs Saturday night with a date against old friend Mike Vrabel and his Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium., "Patriots face a tough road ahead to keep the dynasty rolling - The Boston Globe," 31 Dec. 2019 The single-panel comic, which ran until Larson, now 69, retired in 1995, featured men, women, children, animals and insects in often offbeat and sometimes inscrutable situations. George Gene Gustines, New York Times, "‘The Far Side’ Is Back. Sort Of. Gary Larson Will Explain.," 17 Dec. 2019 The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a small and inscrutable group that has supremely outsized importance in the movie business for one out of every 12 months, tends to nominate films that are also on their way to Academy Awards success. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Breaking Down the 2020 Golden Globe Nominations," 9 Dec. 2019 At first glance TikTok feels both limitless and inscrutable. Ryan Kost,, "How to go viral on TikTok, the app you need to know now," 14 Nov. 2019 Madigan infrequently fields questions in public or grants interviews to reporters, which has fostered his reputation as inscrutable and unaccountable. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Investigations touch Illinois powerbroker’s confidants," 27 Sep. 2019

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

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inscrutable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce inscrutable (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inscrutable

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

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