ob·​scene | \ äb-ˈsēn How to pronounce obscene (audio) , əb- \

Definition of obscene

1 : disgusting to the senses : repulsive
2a : abhorrent to morality or virtue specifically : designed to incite to lust or depravity … the dance often becomes flagrantly obscene and definitely provocative … — Margaret Mead
b : containing or being language regarded as taboo in polite usage obscene lyrics obscene literature
c : repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles an obscene misuse of power
d : so excessive as to be offensive obscene wealth obscene waste

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from obscene

obscenely adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for obscene

coarse, vulgar, gross, obscene, ribald mean offensive to good taste or morals. coarse implies roughness, rudeness, or crudeness of spirit, behavior, or language. found the coarse humor of coworkers offensive vulgar often implies boorishness or ill-breeding. a loud vulgar belch gross implies extreme coarseness and insensitiveness. gross eating habits obscene applies to anything strongly repulsive to the sense of decency and propriety especially in sexual matters. obscene language not allowed on the air ribald applies to what is amusingly or picturesquely vulgar or irreverent or mildly indecent. entertained the campers with ribald folk songs

Examples of obscene in a Sentence

He was accused of making obscene phone calls. He made an obscene gesture at the driver who cut him off. The company's executives earn obscene salaries. He spends an obscene amount of money on clothes.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The incident, which happened July 1, was caught on video by Twitter user @misterpeebs (contains obscene language). Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Another customer goes on an anti-mask tirade, this time at a Southlake Costco," 7 July 2020 Then the man and woman made obscene gestures and drove away. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Berea man arrested in connection to attempted rape; organizers of Black Lives Matter vigil harassed: Berea police blotter," 3 July 2020 And obscene usernames are forbidden—free speech be damned. Danielle Abril, Fortune, "Conservative social media darling Parler discovers that free speech is messy," 1 July 2020 Daniel Everett was serving a life sentence for a Madison County conviction of production of obscene matter involving children under the age of 17. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "7th Alabama prison inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19," 1 July 2020 Carlos says athletes who win Olympic medals Athletes should not be silenced, as long as protests aren’t distasteful or obscene. oregonlive, "Like it or not, the Oregon Ducks will decide when Hayward Field opens: Oregon track & field rundown," 29 June 2020 When Mason painstakingly pulls a loop of sewing thread out of a dead baby’s eye socket, the look on Rhys’s face underlines how obscene the moment feels to the viewer. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Conundrum of a New Perry Mason," 25 June 2020 Reinwald is charged with two counts of possession of obscene matter depicting a person less than 17. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "19-year-old jailed on child porn charges in Tuscaloosa County," 15 June 2020 Six former eBay employees are charged with harassing a couple who had criticized the ecommerce company, sending them obscene messages and mailing them live insects and a Halloween mask featuring a bloody pig face. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, "Ex-eBay employees charged with mailing spiders, cockroaches and pig mask to critics," 15 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obscene.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of obscene

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obscene

Middle French, from Latin obscenus, obscaenus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about obscene

Time Traveler for obscene

Time Traveler

The first known use of obscene was in 1593

See more words from the same year

Statistics for obscene

Last Updated

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obscene.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscene. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for obscene


How to pronounce obscene (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of obscene

: relating to sex in an indecent or offensive way
: very offensive in usually a shocking way
: so large an amount or size as to be very shocking or unfair


ob·​scene | \ äb-ˈsēn How to pronounce obscene (audio) , əb- \

Kids Definition of obscene

: very shocking to a person's sense of what is moral or decent


ob·​scene | \ äb-ˈsēn How to pronounce obscene (audio) \

Legal Definition of obscene

: extremely or deeply offensive according to contemporary community standards of morality or decency — see also Roth v. United States

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that obscene applies to materials that appeal predominantly to a prurient interest in sexual conduct, depict or describe sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Material or expression deemed obscene by the court is not protected by the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

History and Etymology for obscene

Middle French, from Latin obscenus obscaenus indecent, lewd

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on obscene

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obscene

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with obscene

Spanish Central: Translation of obscene

Nglish: Translation of obscene for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obscene for Arabic Speakers

Comments on obscene

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!