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)

Keep scrolling for more

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

An obscure federal case being heard in Washington next month could determine whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s pending full report on Russian interference in the 2016 election gathers dust in a secret file – or sees the light of day. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "St. Beto and the August altar call," 30 Aug. 2018 Employees had their own sections for staff picks, and shelves were lined with current movies in the same aisle as films that were more obscure. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "What we lost when we lost Blockbuster Video," 29 Aug. 2018 To recap briefly, the decision handed down Monday by the Supreme Court originated in an obscure 2012 slip-and-fall case. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "Yelp may have just saved the internet — but the court ruling in its favor is a dangerous muddle," 3 July 2018 This year’s award winner, Allium ‘Millenium’ (an ornamental onion) was a relatively obscure plant a year or two ago. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "Gardeners can go from OK to superb with the help of these websites," 6 July 2018 The likely elevation of San Francisco Fed President John Williams to lead the New York Fed has sparked a degree of public criticism rarely seen in the relatively obscure world of regional central bank chiefs. Michael S. Derby, WSJ, "NY Fed Criticized in Likely Pick of John Williams as Leader," 28 Mar. 2018 One of the largest resource-extraction canals within urban New Orleans is also one of the most obscure. Richard Campanella, NOLA.com, "A canal in Central City? Little-known waterway once connected city to swamp," 6 Mar. 2018 But what started out as an easy-if-not-obscure way to make a buck is quickly growing into a cutthroat pursuit for quarry. Anna-sofia Lesiv, The Seattle Times, "The cutthroat turf war behind the race to charge Bay Area electric scooters," 10 July 2018 The results can be fascinatingly difficult to pin down: obscure, straightforward, happy, somber, modern and old-fashioned all at once—and often veer into weirdness. Sidney Lawrence, WSJ, "A Muse Embedded in Mystery," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But summary statistics can obscure these crucial differences. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "The math of why it’s so hard to build a spherical Death Star in space," 18 Sep. 2018 But social media followings shouldn't obscure all the reasons why a carnivore diets isn't a good idea. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "What You Need to Know About the Carnivore Diet," 7 Sep. 2018 But Cardi B wasn’t completely successful in obscuring herself: Her name and a portrait of her face were both emblazoned on the blanket. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Cardi B Wears a Blanket With Her Face on It to the Airport," 25 Apr. 2018 The weather can change and clouds can obscure your sky view. Michael Stillwell, Popular Mechanics, "A Beginner's Guide to Astrophotography," 28 Mar. 2017 Some faces were obscured by the turbans Sikhs wear as a symbol of their faith. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "18 people to be charged with misdemeanors in Sikh temple brawl," 2 July 2018 And hasn’t everything about the show been politicized to the point where the financially struggling family at its center has been fatally obscured? Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, "A wait-and-see approach on ‘The Conners’," 22 June 2018 That the offense matched Cashner's zeroes in much more notable fashion might obscure what their veteran right-hander did, but in two of his three starts, the bravado that so endeared him to the Orioles clubhouse has been backed up. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Orioles' Andrew Cashner backs up bravado with seven shutout innings against Blue Jays," 11 Apr. 2018 But the focus on foreign meddling has obscured another type of threat. Mac Schneider, Vox, "US voting machines are failing. Here’s why.," 29 Mar. 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.

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

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

Verb

see obscure entry 1

Noun

see obscure entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about obscure

Statistics for obscure

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for obscure

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

See more words from the same century

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, 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on obscure

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

WORD OF THE DAY

something that serves to warn or remind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

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!