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 The precise reason for these stark disparities is nebulous. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The enduring history of health care inequality for black Americans," 19 June 2020 But like much international law, on earth and in space, the ruling’s effect remains nebulous, and the Saudis plan to appeal. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "How Saudi space piracy could scotch a $375 million football deal," 18 June 2020 But the factory's long-term fate remains as nebulous now as when GM targeted it for closure in November 2018. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "GM revived Warren plant for face mask production. What happens when demand slows?," 8 June 2020 Like the Rest line, the Restore mixes a diffuse, color-changing light with a speaker that can produce nebulous noise designed to help drown out real-world sounds that might otherwise disturb your slumber. Popular Science, "Trouble sleeping? This moon-shaped bedside light might help.," 8 June 2020 By latching on to a nebulous and under-defined term such as antifa, Trump can ascribe all manner of ills to a scapegoat that shifts to satisfy his needs at the moment. Ben Zimmer, The Atlantic, "Why Trump Is So Obsessed With Antifa," 4 June 2020 Another example would be nebulous, false accusations that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives. Whitney Phillips, Wired, "How to Avoid Spreading Misinformation About the Protests," 4 June 2020 Without the Monday-to-Friday commute, the weekend seems a more nebulous concept, as does the 9-to-5 working day. The Economist, "Bartleby Working life has entered a new era," 30 May 2020 Given that, is there a place this Easter for a message rooted in something as nebulous as the concept of Christian faith? oregonlive, "Crafting an Easter message of hope and faith at a time when both seem elusive," 11 Apr. 2020

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

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nebulous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for nebulous


How to pronounce nebulous (audio)

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

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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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