obscure

adjective
ob·​scure | \ äb-ˈskyu̇r, 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, 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, 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 \ 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

Much of the appeal is the fact that the game’s characters span video game history, from the iconic to the obscure. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the complete package," 6 Dec. 2018 The Pro Tech kit here comes with a 64-bit screwdriver set, which itself includes many of the bits needed to open the obscure screw heads companies like Apple or Nintendo use to discourage self-repair efforts on their devices. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018—good tech for the power user in your life," 4 Dec. 2018 By reputation alone, its organizers are able to attract obscure but revered metal acts from distant corners of the globe to Baltimore, Maryland, where the festival takes place each Memorial Day weekend. Kevin Warwick, Chicago Reader, "Brazilian grindcore duo Test set to ravage Chicago following Maryland Deathfest," 7 June 2018 That Thursday, the country fell in love with Sister Jean, and Chicago has been on board ever since, in ways both obscure and expected. Joan Niesen, SI.com, "An Unlikely Reviver of Chicago's Hoops Title Dreams, Loyola Has Become the Darling of the City," 28 Mar. 2018 As such album and artist selection on flights tend to skew older and/or more obscure. Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, "Qantas to Get Rid of In-Flight Music," 19 Sep. 2018 Lawyers can then tinker with it further to recognise more obscure clauses, or even those in different languages. The Economist, "Law firms climb aboard the AI wagon," 12 July 2018 Why not start a record label to share obscure music from across the globe? Jordan Runtagh, PEOPLE.com, "The Yin-Yang of David Byrne: How the Unease of American Utopia Gave Him 'Reasons to Be Cheerful’," 9 Mar. 2018 Yet despite all these leaks, the full explanation for Mueller’s keen interest in Stone remains obscure. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Robert Mueller sure still is interested in Roger Stone," 2 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Trump posed with what seemed to be members of a Navy SEAL team for photographs and then posted it on Twitter without blurring out their faces or obscuring their identity — which violates accepted security protocol. Alexia Underwood, Vox, "Trump’s secret trip to Iraq didn’t quite go as planned," 27 Dec. 2018 The use of Tor, which obscures and anonymizes IP addresses and browser user agents, makes tracking individuals online significantly more difficult. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "ACLU to feds: Your “hacking presents a unique threat to individual privacy”," 21 Dec. 2018 The coordinated gender-neutral suits and face-obscuring masks also, in a way, equalize the four women, who come from different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses in that moment. Fawnia Soo Hoo, Glamour, "The Costumes in Widows Mirror Each Woman’s Journey," 15 Nov. 2018 Philadelphia exemplifies just how the challenge of record-keeping can obscure a true understanding of potential industrial hazards. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Booming postindustrial neighborhoods often overlook polluted past," 9 Oct. 2018 In this configuration, the moon passes between the sun and earth, temporarily obscuring the sun. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "A Beginner's Guide to Eclipses in 2018 and How They Can Affect Your Life," 16 July 2018 The negotiations themselves obscure the entire source of responsibility. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Why Trump Is Using Hostage Tactics on Family Separation," 18 June 2018 McQuarrie's team had to develop a special oxygen mask which would allow Cruise's face to be lit and not obscured by the protruding hose — so audiences will see for themselves its actually Cruise jumping. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "Tom Cruise details insane 'Mission: Impossible' jump stunt at 25,000 feet, done 106 times," 26 Apr. 2018 The internet is a place where nonbinary people can learn about mixing masculine and feminine elements to the point of obscuring concrete identification as either. Casey Newton, The Verge, "A majority of Americans don’t think social networks are good for the world," 21 Nov. 2018

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

9 Jan 2019

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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

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

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, 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with obscure

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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