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 To build a successful high-end wine business today is a much more nebulous, fragmented enterprise, requiring an appeal to people on many different platforms rather than through a small handful of individual raters. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 June 2021 Meanwhile, Unnamed Narrator’s boyfriend has vanished to Portugal for nebulous reasons, and she is left alone at his apartment trying to figure out if she’s being ghosted. Molly Young, Vulture, 4 June 2021 Although the price of the fighter is falling and its performance far surpasses that of legacy aircraft, the program is being questioned for what seem to be nebulous reasons. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 12 Mar. 2021 Trade agreements typically include nebulous promises that states will act to improve the situation of workers, and meet international labor standards. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, 2 June 2021 The court proceedings indicated that as of January 2019, the still-nameless venture had 20 employees and a plan that was extremely nebulous. Erika Fry, Fortune, 1 June 2021 Estimates for achieving this nebulous goal vary widely, but states are clearly on different trajectories, and disparities in vaccination rates are sometimes even more stark at the local level. Richard E. Besser, CNN, 29 May 2021 The Utah Legislature passed a nonbinding resolution opining that school districts shouldn’t teach the subject — nebulous though its definition may be — during a special session last week. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 May 2021 There’s so much more to our pale guardian – so much more cultural, social and scientific wonder – than a nebulous buzzword. Robin Andrews, Forbes, 26 May 2021

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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Time Traveler for nebulous

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The first known use of nebulous was in 1674

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Nebulous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for nebulous



English Language Learners Definition of nebulous

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


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

Kids Definition of nebulous

: not clear : vague

More from Merriam-Webster on nebulous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nebulous

Nglish: Translation of nebulous for Spanish Speakers


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