obscure

adjective
ob·​scure | \ äb-ˈskyu̇r How to pronounce obscure (audio) , əb-\

Definition of obscure

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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

obscure

verb
ob·​scure | \ äb-ˈskyu̇r How to pronounce obscure (audio) , əb-\
obscured; obscuring

Definition of obscure (Entry 2 of 3)

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\

obscure

noun
ob·​scure | \ äb-ˈskyu̇r How to pronounce obscure (audio) , əb-\

Definition of obscure (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from obscure

Adjective

obscurely adverb
obscureness noun

Verb

obscuration \ ˌäb-​skyu̇-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce obscuration (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for obscure

Adjective

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

Examples of obscure in a Sentence

Adjective Many people shared an obscure sense of gratification that [Dylan] Thomas had died young, as a poet should. — Adam Kirsch, New Yorker, 5 July 2004 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. Kaplan, The Arabists, 1993 I knew they were special from their jeans and T-shirts, their knowing, ironic looks when obscure works of literature were referred to. — Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, 1991 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 Bowen, Francis Bacon, 1963 The movie is full of obscure references that only pop culture enthusiasts will understand. The origins of the language are obscure. Verb Throughout this book, the ground of fact becomes obscured entirely by a deep layer of speculative quicksand. — Helen Vendler, New Republic, 10 June 2002 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 Cheever, New Yorker, 13 Aug. 1990 … [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 Crouch, New York Times Book Review, 2 Apr. 1989 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 Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818 The true history has been obscured by legends about what happened. They accused the company of trying to obscure the fact that the product poses a health risk. Noun … who shall … through the palpable obscure find out his uncouth way … ? — John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The only area in which the judge did seem to side with Oracle concerned an obscure aspect of how cloud services would be priced under the contract. Washington Post, "Oracle presses ahead with Pentagon cloud lawsuit despite Amazon’s loss," 8 Nov. 2019 The review is being run by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, a formerly obscure interagency group. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "TikTok’s parent company facing national security review, report says," 4 Nov. 2019 November, the first installment of a graphic-novel trilogy with artist Elsa Charretier, is a fascinating noir that pits three normal women against an obscure but terrifying conspiracy. Christian Holub, EW.com, "5 comics to read in November 2019: Look to the future," 4 Nov. 2019 This celebration of craft beer is encouraging these breweries – ubiquitous as well as obscure, to bring something extra special. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: That was a terrific World Series and I'm sick of the Bengals right now," 31 Oct. 2019 Though some obscure festivals haven't lasted long, others are flourishing thanks to filmmakers who are happy to shell out $40, $60, $80 or more in individual submission fees. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, ""People Can Be Exploited": How Below-the-Radar Film Festivals Prey on Struggling Moviemakers," 31 Oct. 2019 The victim, a Jew by the name of Jesus, a wandering preacher from an obscure town named Nazareth, in a region north of Jerusalem named Galilee, had been convicted of a capital offense against Roman order. Tom Holland, Time, "The Crucifixion Took on New Religious Meaning in the Centuries After the Death of Jesus. Here's What Changed," 29 Oct. 2019 The man who would become the founding leader of the world's most brutal terrorist group spent his early adult years as an obscure academic, aiming for a quiet life as a professor of Islamic law. Author: Joby Warrick, Anchorage Daily News, "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dead at 48," 27 Oct. 2019 One long, floor-to-ceiling glass wall can be instantaneously frosted to obscure or reveal the floor below. Olivia Gazis, CBS News, "Here's where U.S. cyber warriors are working to protect against election threats," 24 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The trick is that differential privacy techniques allow the data to be used, but remain anonymous and obscured. Wired, "Oasis Labs' Dawn Song on a Safer Way to Protect Your Data," 8 Nov. 2019 But focusing too much on these particular benefits risks obscuring one of the greatest challenges faced by patients and those generally interested in the health and wellbeing of their neighbors: Getting the government to spend more on health care. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "Single Payer Advocates Are Being Drawn Into the Wrong Debate," 6 Nov. 2019 Nebraska’s 4-2 finish last season, which included a five-point loss at Ohio State and a three-point loss at Iowa, obscured an ugly 0-6 start. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Badgers, who have flourished in November under Paul Chryst, may have to go 4-0 to win the Big Ten West," 3 Nov. 2019 Astronomers suspect that stars forming inside a younger nearby galaxy produced a warm cloud of dust, which obscured the ancient star nursery. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Ancient Galaxy Found at Edge of Universe, Because Apparently You Can Still Discover Those," 24 Oct. 2019 Dreams that the young woman dutifully compiles into dossiers, then takes back to a strange bureaucracy obscured deep within the mountain’s folds. Los Angeles Times, "Artist Shirin Neshat challenges the idea of Muslim women as victims and explores exile," 23 Oct. 2019 These subjects are inseparable from the signs and symbols by which, in our media-glutted moment, they are relentlessly articulated—or, as the case may be, obscured. Hannah Aizenman, The New Yorker, "The Apocalyptic Visions of Ariana Reines," 23 Oct. 2019 The campaign, aimed at driving up web traffic in hopes of catching criminals, shows fugitives with a digital mask, obscuring their gender, which falls away as viewers scroll down the individual bio. Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY, "Europol's 'Crime Has No Gender ' campaign lists 'most wanted' women fugitives," 19 Oct. 2019 Pulled back into a chignon, Mandy’s blonde highlights are on full display, with two sections inexplicably pulled from the center of her hairline to frame her face (or obscure her vision, depending on which way the wind blows). Teen Vogue, "Mandy Moore Shared a Throwback '90s Homecoming Picture," 19 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of obscure

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1667, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for obscure

Adjective, Verb, and Noun

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

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Statistics for obscure

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for obscure

The first known use of obscure was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for obscure

obscure

adjective
How to pronounce obscure (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of obscure

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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
How to pronounce obscure (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of obscure (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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

adjective
ob·​scure | \ äb-ˈskyu̇r How to pronounce obscure (audio) , əb-\

Kids Definition of obscure

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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.

obscure

verb
obscured; obscuring

Kids Definition of obscure (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on obscure

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obscure

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with obscure

Spanish Central: Translation of obscure

Nglish: Translation of obscure for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obscure for Arabic Speakers

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