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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web 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 There was no chanting or blocking traffic, although some used a stencil to spray paint an obscene phrase about the police onto their skateboards. Sasha Hupka, azcentral, "Dozens of skateboarders join Phoenix's 18th consecutive day of police protests Sunday," 14 June 2020 Lightfoot was asked at a press conference on Friday about Chicago Police officers allegedly attempting to conceal their names and badge numbers from protesters while seen making obscene gestures. Brian Ries, CNN, "Chicago mayor says officer shown giving 'the finger' to protesters should be fired," 5 June 2020 Shortly after, dozens of people started posting screenshots of their submissions, including video of police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, and obscene material. NBC News, "Police tip lines flooded with video of police violence, memes and K-pop," 3 June 2020 Jordan, the gambler: The ridiculous theories the press harped on following his father's murder was obscene, and the documentary properly displayed that. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "'The Last Dance' winners, losers: Michael Jordan, Jerry Krause, Isiah Thomas and memes lead way," 18 May 2020 For that stately process to be undermined by a panic is obscene; for the panic to be over a virus—a form of life with only its own spring-like emergence and thriving in mind—seems especially frightening. Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, "The Coronavirus and the Ruptured Narrative of Campus Life," 12 Mar. 2020 What community would that be, and to whom is the film obscene? Elaine Ayala, ExpressNews.com, "Ayala: Does the city really want input from its boards, commissions? Doesn’t look that way," 12 Mar. 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.

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First Known Use of obscene

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obscene

Middle French, from Latin obscenus, obscaenus

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Time Traveler for obscene

Time Traveler

The first known use of obscene was in 1593

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Statistics for obscene

Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obscene.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscene. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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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

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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

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