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 Police chief Michael Botieri said that, at both locations, obscene messages were painted on the statues and landmarks, according to local media. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "'Unfathomable and unconscionable': Plymouth Rock vandalized on eve of 400th anniversary of Mayflower landing," 18 Feb. 2020 Obscenity: Cedar Road At 5:40 p.m. Jan. 30, a woman reported that the current girlfriend of her child’s father sent an obscene message to her 11-year-old daughter’s cell phone. cleveland, "Drunk man, 58, asks Applebee’s customers for money, refuses to leave: University Heights police blotter," 5 Feb. 2020 Transportation accounts for about one-third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and much of that is due to obscene commuting times in cities and suburbs with inadequate mass transit. TheWeek, "America's housing crisis," 8 Mar. 2020 The thought of making voters wait until after 1 a.m. to cast a ballot is obscene and inexcusable. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Garcia: Texas Dems launch misguided effort to save straight-ticket voting," 7 Mar. 2020 This offence consists of a message sent to another person or via a public communications network that is threatening, obscene or grossly indecent in some way. Jenn Selby, refinery29.com, "What Exactly Constitutes Harassment On Instagram?," 24 Feb. 2020 One woman received obscene texts from a gym employee who’d stolen her phone number from the guest database. Fortune, "When misogyny goes to the gym," 4 Feb. 2020 Jesus Israel Escamilla, 39, of the first block of East Division Street, Mundelein, was charged Oct. 18 with electronic harassment/obscene proposal. chicagotribune.com, "Lake Barrington man charged with home invasion, battery to an elderly person: Buffalo Grove police," 28 Oct. 2019 Scenes of Bulgarian 'fans' in black hoodies covering their faces, while making obscene and offensive gestures on television is simply sickening. SI.com, "Bulgaria 0-6 England: Reports, Ratings & Reaction as Three Lions Triumph Amid Sickening Scenes," 14 Oct. 2019

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

29 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obscene.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscene. Accessed 10 Apr. 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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