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

transitive verb

: to perplex the mind of : bewilder
: to make mysterious or obscure
mystify an interpretation of a prophecy
mystifier noun
mystifyingly adverb

Example Sentences

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 Every statement seems painstakingly crafted to mystify rather than clarify. Andrew Cline, WSJ, 3 Nov. 2022 The cases, which have been discovered in at least 20 countries, continue to mystify scientists, who have been unable to pinpoint the cause. Frances Stead Sellers And Katie Shepherd, Anchorage Daily News, 7 May 2022 While bright lights, glamorous fashion, and cheering fans are all hallmarks of a walk down the red carpet, Oscars beauty secrets continue to mystify us, each star’s glowing complexion more blinding than the next on Hollywood’s biggest night. Kiana Murden, Vogue, 24 Mar. 2022 And because Forte’s comedy is as idiosyncratic as always, the parts that left me doubled over with laughter may mystify you, and vice versa. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 15 Dec. 2021 The 49ers’ other first-round pick from that 2020 draft, Brandon Aiyuk, continued to mystify with his lack of production. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 24 Oct. 2021 It’s mind-bending logic that would mystify Lewis Carroll. Rich Lowry, National Review, 1 Oct. 2021 There is so much in the Office of the Child Advocate report into David’s death to terrify, enrage, and, yes, to mystify., 8 Apr. 2021 There are things that mystify and things that, sadly, shouldn’t be all that surprising. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

Word History


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 initiate") 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.

First Known Use

1814, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of mystify was in 1814

Dictionary Entries Near mystify

Cite this Entry

“Mystify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



mys·​ti·​fy ˈmis-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce mystify (audio)
mystified; mystifying
: to confuse thoroughly the understanding of : perplex
mystified by his behavior

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