nebulous

adjective
neb·​u·​lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs How to pronounce nebulous (audio) \

Definition of nebulous

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a nebula : nebular
2 : indistinct, vague … this nebulous thing called jazz.— Josef Woodard … the nebulous region between mere suspicion and probable cause— W. R. LaFave & J. H. Israel The plan is too nebulous.

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Other Words from nebulous

nebulously adverb
nebulousness noun

Did You Know?

Nebulous comes from the Latin word nebulosus, meaning "misty," which in turn comes from nebula, meaning "mist," "fog," or "cloud." In the 18th century, English speakers borrowed "nebula" and gave it a somewhat more specific meaning than the Latin version. In English, "nebula" refers to a cloud of gas or dust in deep space, or in less technical contexts, simply to a galaxy. "Nebulous" itself, when it doesn't have interstellar implications, usually means "cloudy" or "foggy" in a figurative sense. One's memory of a long-past event, for example, will often be nebulous; a teenager might give a nebulous recounting of an evening's events upon coming home; or a politician might make a campaign promise but give only a nebulous description of how he or she would fulfill it.

Examples of nebulous in a Sentence

These philosophical concepts can be nebulous. made nebulous references to some major changes the future may hold

Recent Examples on the Web

Or maybe your time is spent trying to drill down nebulous ideas from an executive who didn’t put an action plan in place. WSJ, "Stop Wasting Money and Start Saving Time: A Guide to Being Smart With Both," 8 Dec. 2018 Despite the excited, headlong rush of the writing—not since Humbert Humbert has so much impassioned prose been lavished on so nebulous a love-object—the overall tone is elegiac. John Banville, WSJ, "‘Sleeping With Strangers’ Review: Flickers of Desire," 22 Feb. 2019 Such nebulous criticism seems almost of another time—at once totally unfounded, wildly unnecessary, and more than a little sexist. Elizabeth Holmes, Town & Country, "Anne Hathaway Is Nobody's Punching Bag," 8 Jan. 2019 The plea agreement states that Thompson’s attacks caused $95,000 in damage, although that’s likely a fairly nebulous estimate. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "The man behind a spree of gaming network cyberattacks has pleaded guilty," 7 Nov. 2018 This is an area hazier than gray and more nebulous than fog. Tamar Adler, Vogue, "Is Healthy Snack Food Actually Healthy—or Just Addictive?," 18 Jan. 2019 For nebulous reasons, my husband wavered and then backed out at the last minute. Carolyn Hax, The Seattle Times, "There are exceptions to the ‘leave-him-to-it rule’," 14 Aug. 2018 Both constructs are nebulous and, in a dynamic economy constantly buffeted by myriad cross currents, impossible for central bankers to control. Amar Bhidé, WSJ, "Congress Should Set the Fed’s Inflation Target—Ideally at Zero," 6 Nov. 2018 These complicated, nebulous aspects of personality disorders mean that attempting to diagnose them even in a professional setting requires extreme care and caution. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Mental Health Experts Want You to Know Before Watching the Buzzy New YouTube Series ‘The Mind of Jake Paul’," 12 Oct. 2018

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

1674, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nebulous

Latin nebulosus misty, from nebula

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Statistics for nebulous

Last Updated

2 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for nebulous

The first known use of nebulous was in 1674

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More Definitions for nebulous

nebulous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of nebulous

formal : not clear : difficult to see, understand, describe, etc.

nebulous

adjective
neb·​u·​lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs How to pronounce nebulous (audio) \

Kids Definition of nebulous

: not clear : vague

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More from Merriam-Webster on nebulous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nebulous

Spanish Central: Translation of nebulous

Nglish: Translation of nebulous for Spanish Speakers

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