adjective ob·scene \ äb-ˈsēn , əb- \
|Updated on: 20 Jul 2018

Definition of obscene

1 : disgusting to the senses : repulsive
2 a : 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



Examples of obscene in a Sentence

  1. He was accused of making obscene phone calls.

  2. He made an obscene gesture at the driver who cut him off.

  3. The company's executives earn obscene salaries.

  4. He spends an obscene amount of money on clothes.

Recent Examples of obscene from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of obscene

Middle French, from Latin obscenus, obscaenus

Synonym Discussion of 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

OBSCENE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of obscene for English Language Learners

  • : 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

OBSCENE Defined for Kids


adjective ob·scene \ äb-ˈsēn , əb- \

Definition of obscene for Students

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

Law Dictionary


adjective ob·scene \ äb-ˈsēn \

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.

Origin and Etymology of obscene

Middle French, from Latin obscenus obscaenus indecent, lewd

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one who attends or assists a leader

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