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 Yelling about Facebook’s obscene power, while the company ravenously accrues more of it. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "Even Facebook’s Handpicked “Supreme Court” Thinks Its Policies Are a Joke," 5 May 2021 Members were also known to blast obscene political messages over loudspeakers. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, "UPenn, Princeton apologize after remains from 1985 Philadelphia bombing were used without families' knowledge," 1 May 2021 Police said in a statement that other spectators at the game complained about a man who was not following COVID-19-related protocols and other code of conduct rules, including not being disruptive, intoxicated, or using obscene language. Heather Hollingsworth, Chron, "No charges against R&B artist Trey Songz over NFL scuffle," 27 Apr. 2021 There would definitely be traffic, obscene traffic, in Midtown at rush hour on a Friday morning. Leslie Jamison, Harper's Magazine, "Petty Cash," 27 Apr. 2021 In addition to seeing people drive by and come on to his property, Raffensperger’s wife has been getting obscene threats on her cellphone, Sterling said. Colleen Long And Calvin Woodward, chicagotribune.com, "Last throes of Trump’s presidency turn ugly — even dangerous," 2 Dec. 2020 Pilot Michael Haak is facing the charge of lewd, indecent and obscene exposure of his genitals in a public place in the U.S. District Court of Maryland. Grace Toohey, orlandosentinel.com, "Southwest pilot exposed himself during flight to Orlando, federal prosecutors say," 5 Apr. 2021 The performance of this SUV is positively obscene, with its sights set on sporting competitors like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe. Robert Ross, Robb Report, "Drive Review: Why These Two Mercedes SUVs Belong in the Same Garage," 1 Apr. 2021 Forget about the price tag, which is obscene, of course. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, "Godzilla vs. Kong Is Heart-Stoppingly Stupid But Sporadically Entertaining," 31 Mar. 2021

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

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obscene.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscene. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for obscene



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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