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

Because the creation of the Happy Meal was somewhat nebulous. Christopher Borrelli,, "Who created the McDonald’s Happy Meal? 40 years later, the answer is complicated.," 3 July 2019 As a result, the administration’s objectives are frequently nebulous, and, former state department staff say, U.S. influence, partnerships, and ability to drive global affairs are dwindling. Tovin Lapan, Fortune, "Trump Administration Turnover Leads to Foreign Policy Turmoil," 23 Aug. 2019 These rankings are purely subjective and based on a nebulous set of criteria that include corporate leverage, deftness of negotiation, personal turmoil and insults thrown and received. Andrew R. Chow, Time, "The Succession Season 2 Roy Family Power Rankings," 8 Aug. 2019 The trade hinges on the nebulous idea of culture, the necessary and mysterious ingredient for any championship team. Jonathan Jones,, "Dave Gettleman Doesn’t Care What You Think," 6 Aug. 2019 The pitcher that has best embraced the nebulous nature of the Padres pitching staff owns his paradoxical thinking. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres rookie Cal Quantrill relishes proving self," 26 July 2019 There must be a base currency (or some equation) to examine, otherwise regulators are left only with a nebulous white paper. Matthew De Silva, Quartz, "If Facebook can ban users, will its Libra cryptocurrency do the same?," 18 July 2019 Again, optimistic, but why not go big at this nebulous juncture? Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: Three thoughts on the Warriors’ three draft picks," 21 June 2019 Judging Flores will come down to more nebulous ideas of culture, player development and simply not letting this season turn into a clown show at times when the wheels come off. Dave Hyde,, "Hyde: Will down be up? Bad be good? How to preview a Dolphins season unlike any other? | Commentary," 20 July 2019

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

17 Sep 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



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

Comments on nebulous

What made you want to look up nebulous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

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