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

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 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, chicagotribune.com, "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, latimes.com, "In Iranian art show at LACMA, the past wrestles with the present," 4 June 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

3 Dec 2018

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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

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

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