ob·​nu·​bi·​late äb-ˈnü-bə-ˌlāt How to pronounce obnubilate (audio)
obnubilated; obnubilating
obnubilation noun

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The Political History of Obnubilate

The meaning of obnubilate becomes clearer when you know that its ancestors are the Latin terms ob- (meaning "in the way") and nubes ("cloud"). It's a high-flown sounding word, which may be why it often turns up in texts by and about politicians. This has been true for a long time. In fact, when the U.S. Constitution was up for ratification, 18th-century Pennsylvania statesman James Wilson used obnubilate to calm fears that the president would have too much power: "Our first executive magistrate is not obnubilated behind the mysterious obscurity of counsellors…. He is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people."

Word History


borrowed from Latin obnūbilātus, past participle of obnūbilāre "to make dark or obscure, becloud, darken (the mind)," from ob- "toward, facing" + nūbilāre "to become cloudy or overcast," derivative of nūbilus "cloudy, overcast, dark, dim, confused," from nūbēs "cloud" + -ilus, denominative adjective suffix — more at ob-, nuance

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of obnubilate was in 1583


Dictionary Entries Near obnubilate

Cite this Entry

“Obnubilate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obnubilate. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

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