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 mystify (audio) \ noun
mystifyingly \ ˈmi-​stə-​ˌfī-​iŋ-​lē How to pronounce mystify (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 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 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, 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, 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,, 19 Mar. 2020 Quantum entanglement has mystified physicists for more than a century and is the cornerstone of quantum communication. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, 13 Feb. 2020 The respiratory illness still mystifies public health officials, who continue to investigate the cases. Kate Thayer,, 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, 31 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 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.

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The first known use of mystify was in 1814

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Cite this Entry

“Mystify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for mystify



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.

More from Merriam-Webster on mystify

Nglish: Translation of mystify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mystify for Arabic Speakers


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