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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from obscure

Adjective

obscurely adverb
obscureness noun

Verb

obscuration \ ˌäb-​skyu̇-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce obscure (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 Today, there is no suburb or subculture too obscure to be invaded by cameras, and no shortage of eyeballs to tune in and find out what happens when the people there stop being polite and start getting real. James Montgomery, Rolling Stone, 29 May 2021 So far as the extant record shows, Aswell’s reasons were obscure. Colin Asher, The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2021 Books like The Bomber Mafia that discuss the varieties of air war and the various merits of different approaches obscure this fact under irrelevant technological distraction. Colin Dickey, The New Republic, 4 June 2021 Musk frequently triggers large moves in cryptocurrency prices, often via obscure remarks on social media. Hanna Ziady, CNN, 4 June 2021 Lawmakers who hadn’t known much about the obscure Chapter 313 program were paying attention to the debate on the House floor, Martinez said. Mike Morris, San Antonio Express-News, 2 June 2021 During his tenure leading the generally obscure General Land Office, Bush faced criticism over his handling of the major renovation of the Alamo historic site and recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Allie Morris, Dallas News, 2 June 2021 Shrimp, boquerones and obscure fish like seabream dominated the daily menu, appearing on almost every dish aside from the two pizzas. Andi Berlin, The Arizona Republic, 30 May 2021 The reason is an obscure US regulation, called the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment, that used to forbid American companies from providing higher-resolution satellite images of the region, due to security concerns expressed by Israel. Luiz Romero, Wired, 28 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Moreover, titles that obscure who does what can make life complicated for employees, colleagues and customers. The Economist, 14 Apr. 2021 These sort of sales — which are often conducted through shell companies that can obscure a buyer’s identity — have also drawn the eye of federal regulators, who worry the murky transactions are ripe for money laundering. BostonGlobe.com, 30 Mar. 2021 As a result, they are tempted to conduct such analysis with a thumb on the scale, deeming some effects too uncertain to quantify or express in monetary terms, or identifying policy alternatives that obscure important choices. Randall Lutter, National Review, 15 Mar. 2021 Don’t drive through puddles that may obscure a hole. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, 24 Feb. 2021 Cfius is concerned with Chinese early-stage investments coming through intermediaries that obscure the real source of capital, said people with knowledge of the matter. Heather Somerville, WSJ, 31 Jan. 2021 Calculating the social cost of carbon is complicated, and it’s based on dozens of fiddly knobs that sometimes obscure the value judgments baked into it. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, 22 Jan. 2021 These saws will handle everything from trimming mid-sized branches that might obscure the view from your deer stand to cutting larger logs for firewood. The Editors, Field & Stream, 14 Aug. 2019 This makes sense due to the likelihood of dust being tossed up when the autonomous helicopter gets closer to the Mars surface and would obscure or make the images unusable or unreliable. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 5 June 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About obscure

Time Traveler for obscure

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for obscure

Last Updated

18 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obscure.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obscure. Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on obscure

Nglish: Translation of obscure for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obscure for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Return of Name that Color!

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

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!