inscrutable

adjective
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

That might look like a lot of inscrutable text, but the result is a package that’s more energy efficient overall and 20 percent slimmer than the current design. Stefan Etienne, The Verge, "Samsung starts mass production of more efficient memory chips that could improve battery life in phones," 26 July 2018 The aftermath of trauma is complex, evolving, and inscrutable at times—not just to outsiders, but also to the people who are in it. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "How to Be There for Someone Who Survived a Horrible Trauma," 1 Apr. 2019 For Emma Wilde, a 31-year-old single mother, the misadventure began with an inscrutable piece of correspondence. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything," 28 May 2018 Not because the dresses nodded to a demented Kim Novak or an inscrutable Eva Marie Saint. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "The Top 10 Collections of the Fall 2019 Season," 8 Mar. 2019 The world of medicine—from the pediatrician checking your child’s breathing to the specialist researcher toiling away at a university lab—is guardedly private, hidden behind spotless white coats and inscrutable clipboards. Susan Scutti, Newsweek, "The Sunshine Act Will Publicize Big Pharma’s Undue Influence on Doctors," 22 May 2014 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

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

18 Jun 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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