mys·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmi-stə-ˌfī How to pronounce mystify (audio) \
mystified; mystifying

Definition of mystify

transitive verb

1 : to perplex the mind of : bewilder
2 : to make mysterious or obscure mystify an interpretation of a prophecy

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Other Words from mystify

mystifier \ ˈmi-​stə-​ˌfī(-​ə)r How to pronounce mystifier (audio) \ noun
mystifyingly \ ˈmi-​stə-​ˌfī-​iŋ-​lē How to pronounce mystifyingly (audio) \ adverb

Examples of mystify in a Sentence

The cause of the disease mystified doctors for many years. The magician has been mystifying his audiences for years with his amazing tricks.
Recent Examples on the Web Using it as the subject of a proposition, as Heidegger does, is at best a sign of mental confusion, and at worst a deliberate attempt to mystify and mislead. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, "Philosophy in the Shadow of Nazism," 12 Oct. 2020 He was left frustrated and mystified by a generation of young progressives who had left behind their — and his — ancestral faith. Tanner Greer, National Review, "Learning the Wrong Lessons from Reform Conservatism," 17 Mar. 2020 Several of the veterans were as shocked by the dismissal of the popular Bristol as they were mystified by the prematurely gray 36-year-old Anderson. Laura Mazade,, "Need something that's not coronavirus related? We've made these stories free to read," 19 Mar. 2020 Quantum entanglement has mystified physicists for more than a century and is the cornerstone of quantum communication. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "We Just Got Our Best Look Yet at the Quantum Internet of the Future," 13 Feb. 2020 The respiratory illness still mystifies public health officials, who continue to investigate the cases. Kate Thayer,, "Doctors wonder if traditional smoking cessation methods will help people quit vaping," 19 Sep. 2019 Although that move might mystify some fans, remember that Mertz can play up to four games this season without losing a season of eligibility. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "UW running back Jonathan Taylor rushes for 100 yards again and shows work on receiving skills is paying off," 31 Aug. 2019 Rookie starter Cal Quantrill mystified the Rockies offense while rookie sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. continued his assault on Colorado pitching with a key two-run double as San Diego posted a 7-1 victory. Kevin Henry, The Denver Post, "Padres send Rockies to fourth straight loss," 9 Aug. 2019 For those who successfully changed the laws in the wake of deadly shootings, the U.S. stance is mystifying. Washington Post, "The U.S. and New Zealand shared a love of guns. Their reactions to mass shootings have nothing in common.," 5 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mystify.' 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 mystify

1814, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mystify

borrowed from French mystifier "to hoodwink, dupe," from Greek mýstēs "person initiated (into a religious cult)" + French -ifier -ify — more at mystic entry 1

Note: French mystifier was used by 18th-century literati in the context of elaborate practical jokes in which some pseudo-magical procedure would be performed on the subject of the joke as a sort of mock initiation. Such a joke is described by the playwright Charles-Simon Favart (1710-92) in a letter of June 24, 1760, apparently the earliest known occurrence of the verb: one Poinsinet is persuaded that the application of a magic ointment has made him invisible and he then becomes the butt of various jests. According to Favart, Poinsinet was dubbed le mystifié (presumably, "one made an inititate") as a result of the jests, which he refers to collectively as la mystification. (See Mémoires et correspondances littéraires, dramatiques et anecdotiques de C.S. Favart, tome 1, Paris, 1808, p. 50-52.) The meaning of the English word has been influenced by mystery entry 1, mystical, etc.

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Time Traveler for mystify

Time Traveler

The first known use of mystify was in 1814

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mystify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for mystify


How to pronounce mystify (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mystify

: to confuse (someone) completely


mys·​ti·​fy | \ ˈmi-stə-ˌfī How to pronounce mystify (audio) \
mystified; mystifying

Kids Definition of mystify

: to confuse or bewilder completely His strange behavior has mystified us.

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