neb·u·lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs \

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

Because Thrun was focused on the self-driving team (and after 2012, on his online education startup, Udacity), his codirector, Astro Teller, took the helm of a ship whose purpose and direction remained nebulous. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Inside X, the Moonshot Factory Racing to Build the Next Google," 11 July 2018 One of these searching souls will be left holding the nebulous prize by book’s end. Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor, "'What We Were Promised' depicts post-Mao China in a deft debut novel set in Shanghai," 13 July 2018 Gig workers’ nebulous existence, somewhere between employees and traditional contractors, has instigated several lawsuits. Lauren Markham, The Atlantic, "The Immigrants Fueling the Gig Economy," 20 June 2018 Here is a look at some of the issues that make the term terrorism so nebulous and tricky. Rick Gladstone, New York Times, "What Is Terrorism? Attacks in Canada and Belgium Reflect Uncertain Definition," 31 May 2018 Selena Gomez's involvement in the Netflix juggernaut 13 Reasons Why has always been nebulous, as celebrity roles tend to be. Rebecca Farley,, "How Involved Was Selena Gomez In 13 Reasons Why Season 2?," 21 May 2018 Many other things about Ohtani — 23, soft-spoken, unfailingly polite, frighteningly gifted — are nebulous, atypical or secrets. Dennis Lin,, "Japanese star Shohei Ohtani would be big in San Diego (or anywhere else)," 6 Dec. 2017 At 11 months old, Almasbek is just past the nebulous state of babyhood. Time, "Life in the Most Polluted Capital in the World," 28 June 2018 Skill alone fully insulates no one, but skill plays a role in the nebulous, unsolvable equations of risk. Kelly Cordes, Outside Online, "Even Tommy Caldwell Questioned the Nose Speed Record," 13 June 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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Last Updated

20 Aug 2018

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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



English Language Learners Definition of nebulous

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


neb·u·lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs \

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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