1

obscure

adjective ob·scure \ äb-ˈskyu̇r , əb- \
Updated on: 16 Nov 2017

Definition of obscure

1 a : dark, dim
  • the obscure dusk of the shuttered room
b : shrouded in or hidden by darkness
  • standing obscure in the deepest shade
c : not clearly seen or easily distinguished : faint
  • obscure markings
2 : not readily understood or clearly expressed; also : mysterious
  • a slough of pretentious and obscure jargon
  • —Philip Howard
3 : relatively unknown: such as
a : remote, secluded
  • an obscure village
b : not prominent or famous
  • an obscure poet
4 : constituting the unstressed vowel \ə\ or having unstressed \ə\ as its value

obscurely

adverb

obscureness

noun

Examples of obscure in a Sentence

  1. Many people shared an obscure sense of gratification that [Dylan] Thomas had died young, as a poet should. —Adam KirschNew Yorker5 July 2004
  2. But by 1830 the Boston Mission Board was desperate enough that it targeted an obscure sect of Oriental Christians, the Nestorians in faraway Iran, as a possibility for conversion. —Robert D. KaplanThe Arabists1993
  3. I knew they were special from their jeans and T-shirts, their knowing, ironic looks when obscure works of literature were referred to. —Julia AlvarezHow the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents1991
  4. Now at last Bacon could refer when he chose to his father's high position and his father's service—and no man could say it was done for self-aggrandizement, as a son who is obscure bespeaks the glory of past forebears. —Catherine Drinker BowenFrancis Bacon1963
  5. The movie is full of obscure references that only pop culture enthusiasts will understand.

  6. The origins of the language are obscure.

Recent Examples of obscure from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of obscure

Middle English, from Anglo-French oscur, obscur, from Latin obscurus

Synonym Discussion of obscure

obscure, dark, vague, enigmatic, cryptic, ambiguous, equivocal mean not clearly understandable. obscure implies a hiding or veiling of meaning through some inadequacy of expression or withholding of full knowledge.
    • obscure poems
dark implies an imperfect or clouded revelation often with ominous or sinister suggestion.
    • muttered dark hints of revenge
vague implies a lack of clear formulation due to inadequate conception or consideration.
    • a vague sense of obligation
enigmatic stresses a puzzling, mystifying quality.
    • enigmatic occult writings
cryptic implies a purposely concealed meaning.
    • cryptic hints of hidden treasure
ambiguous applies to language capable of more than one interpretation.
    • an ambiguous directive
equivocal applies to language left open to differing interpretations with the intention of deceiving or evading.
    • moral precepts with equivocal phrasing

2

obscure

verb ob·scure \ äb-ˈskyu̇r , əb- \

Definition of obscure

obscured; obscuring
transitive verb
1 : to make dark, dim, or indistinct
  • The soot on the lampshade obscured the light.
2 : to conceal or hide by or as if by covering
  • … snow on glaciers can obscure deep crevasses.
  • —Tom Simon
3 : to reduce (a vowel) to the value \ə\

obscuration

play \ˌäb-skyu̇-ˈrā-shən\ noun

Examples of obscure in a Sentence

  1. Throughout this book, the ground of fact becomes obscured entirely by a deep layer of speculative quicksand. —Helen VendlerNew Republic10 June 2002
  2. But evening comes or even noon and some combination of nervous tensions obscures my memories of what whiskey costs me in the way of physical and intellectual well-being. —John CheeverNew Yorker13 Aug. 1990
  3. … [Mr. Schuller's] … "Early Jazz" brought a sometimes Olympian precision to writing about an art that has often languished in the whale's belly of sociology, obscured by pretension and blubbery thinking. —Stanley CrouchNew York Times Book Review2 Apr. 1989
  4. It was eight o'clock when we landed; we walked for a short time on the shore enjoying the transitory light, and then retired to the inn and contemplated the lovely scene of waters, woods, and mountains, obscured in darkness, yet still displaying their black outlines. —Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyFrankenstein1818
  5. The true history has been obscured by legends about what happened.

  6. They accused the company of trying to obscure the fact that the product poses a health risk.

Recent Examples of obscure from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of obscure


3

obscure

noun ob·scure \ äb-ˈskyu̇r , əb- \

Definition of obscure

Examples of obscure in a Sentence

  1. … who shall … through the palpable obscure find out his uncouth way … ? —John MiltonParadise Lost1667

Recent Examples of obscure from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of obscure


OBSCURE Defined for English Language Learners

obscure

adjective

Definition of obscure for English Language Learners

  • : not well-known : not known to most people

  • : difficult to understand : likely to be understood by only a few people

  • : difficult or impossible to know completely and with certainty


obscure

verb

Definition of obscure for English Language Learners

  • : to make (something) difficult to understand or know : to make (something) obscure

  • : to hide or cover (something) : to be in front of (something) so that it cannot be seen


OBSCURE Defined for Kids

1

obscure

adjective ob·scure \ äb-ˈskyu̇r , əb- \

Definition of obscure for Students

1 : not easy to see : faint
  • an obscure light
2 : hidden from view
  • an obscure village
3 : not easily understood or clearly expressed
  • I struggled with an obscure chapter in the book.
4 : not outstanding or famous
  • It was written by an obscure poet.

2

obscure

verb

Definition of obscure for Students

obscured; obscuring
: to make difficult to see or understand
  • Clouds drifted across the sky, obscuring the thin sliver of moon.
  • —Brian Jacques, Redwall


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

food, provisions, or a tasty dish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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