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


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\


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


obscurely adverb
obscureness noun


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

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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 Starbird and her colleagues analyzed the spread of an initially obscure post on Medium, a blogging platform that doesn’t fact-check most content, that was quickly elevated by conservative commentators. Author: Sandi Doughton, Anchorage Daily News, "COVID-19 meets the 2020 election: The perfect storm for misinformation," 7 July 2020 What was once a relatively obscure regulatory niche has become a major concern for multinational corporations worldwide. Alexandra Wrage, STAT, "Pharma companies need extra anti-corruption vigilance during a pandemic," 2 July 2020 Esther Mobley takes a look at Alpine wine and if Californians may one day be able to enjoy a glass of one of these more obscure wines. Kellie Hwang, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: Newsom orders more closures ahead of holiday weekend," 2 July 2020 Markus Braun built Wirecard AG from an obscure firm based in a small town outside of Munich into a global electronic-payments giant. Paul J. Davies, WSJ, "How Wirecard Went From Tech Star to Bankrupt," 2 July 2020 The Valley's restaurateurs are busy exploring every obscure pizza format under the sun, and nobody is happier about that than people like me. Dominic Armato, The Arizona Republic, "Pizza doesn't have to be fancy to be good. This new metro Phoenix restaurant proves it," 27 June 2020 As director of Number 10’s in-house think-tank, the Policy Unit, the unbeliever in question has hitherto been an obscure figure in Boris Johnson’s high command, albeit an important one. The Economist, "Bagehot Munira Mirza, revolutionary conservative," 27 June 2020 An obscure agency with ties to perhaps President Trump's most senior adviser is tasked with countering China’s predatory lending programs and working with the Pentagon to move sensitive supply chains out of the communist regime’s control. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Jared Kushner ally joins with Pentagon to move critical industries out of China," 24 June 2020 As machine learning has becoming more prominent at businesses, Roese has also seen that executives are becoming increasingly familiar with A.I. jargon and obscure A.I. lingo. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Why the C-Suite is now overseeing corporate A.I. projects," 23 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Fields Stewart said that language, or the lack of it, can work to obscure the contours of the Black LGBTQ experience. NBC News, "What does it mean to be Black and queer in America today?," 18 June 2020 Hunter, whose small stature can obscure her pugnacity, pushed her way to the front and furiously reproached them. Luke Mogelson, The New Yorker, "The Heart of the Uprising in Minneapolis," 15 June 2020 Which brings us to the most interesting, and hopeful, reason for the finder to stay anonymous and obscure the location of the find. Peter Frick-wright, Outside Online, "Finding Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Was Just the Start," 9 June 2020 Such fulminations obscure an important difference between the two controversies. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "Protests and property: Can architects rebuild our broken cities?," 9 June 2020 The report contains shocking details about the death of Billy Smith, including apparent efforts to conceal the timeline of events and obscure the roles that correctional employees played in his fatal ordeal. al, "Alabama prison guards allegedly beat, hog-tied, ignored inmate who later died: Secret report," 7 June 2020 The liberal amnesia over Bush (and his father) should not obscure how little the other former presidents might have to offer here. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Political Elites’ Pointless Calls for More Leadership," 1 June 2020 The politics of the protest should not obscure that police violence against innocent or nonthreatening people has to stop. Dallas News, "Curbing police violence against black residents must include stopping systemic oppression," 1 June 2020 At the time, Marshall’s office argued that the city could face fines of up to $25,000 a day for obscuring the statue from public view; however, the Alabama Supreme Court later disagreed and said the law allowed only a one-time fine. Kyle Whitmire, al, "Alabama monument law turns AG into stone," 9 June 2020

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


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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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Time Traveler for obscure

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for obscure

Last Updated

11 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Obscure.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscure. Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for obscure


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


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


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.


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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