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 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

But Democrats are exploiting an obscure procedural rule that would allow them to get the vote through by conducting two simple majority votes. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "New Jersey Democrats have a new gerrymandering plan. It is indefensible — and national Democrats need to stop it.," 14 Dec. 2018 Cheers to the Beastie Boys for bringing this obscure alcoholic mix to the American public. Natalie Maher, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Best Drinking Songs to Raise a Glass To," 29 Mar. 2019 Trump departed from the Justice Department’s usual line of succession to put him in the post, using an obscure law called the Vacancies Reform Act that lets the president temporarily fill vacant positions. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "The many scandals of Trump’s new acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, explained," 14 Nov. 2018 Discovery season 2 will also introduce the Saurian character Linus, an obscure species last seen as a background character in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "Everything We Know So Far About 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 2," 5 Sep. 2018 His Justice Department is proficient at digging up obscure federal laws and misinterpreting them to justify Trump’s unpopular policies. Dahleen Glanton, chicagotribune.com, "Trump and Sessions are cut from the same bigoted cloth," 18 June 2018 Under an obscure federal law, Congress can take up the White House’s plans for reneging spending with a simple majority in the Senate. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "After Blowing Up the Deficit, House Passes Mostly Phony Spending Cuts," 8 June 2018 The original garden coral bells consisted of an obscure little dry land species, Heuchera sanguinea. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "This is the superhero of your garden. But, it's not what you'd expect," 20 Apr. 2018 This week brought reports that the agency had used an obscure law to award substantial raises to aides over White House's objections. Bloomberg News, NOLA.com, "Army of conservative allies rallying to save embattled EPA chief," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The hedge is only about three-feet high right now, but will eventually grow much taller—above head height—and will obscure the view of the back of the property from photographers and tourists. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince William and Kate Middleton Plant a 950-Foot Hedge at Kensington Palace to Protect Their Privacy," 7 Apr. 2019 Even labels known for a body-conscious fit included more-generous silhouettes, albeit flirtatiously executed: At Jacquemus, gathered swingy tops obscured... Nancy Macdonell, WSJ, "The Hidden Meaning Behind Women’s Voluminous Fashion," 3 Apr. 2019 The sign for Fish Hatchery Springs had fallen down, and was partially obscured by the vegetation of the trail. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Scuppernong Springs nature hike is delightfully haunting — your kids will love it," 26 June 2018 Last week, Twitter jumped on the case of an unidentified black woman who appeared, partially obscured, in a 1971 photo taken at the International Conference on the Biology of Whales. Anne Branigin, The Root, "Meet the Trailblazing Black Scientist Twitter Helped Identify From a Single Photograph: Report," 20 Mar. 2018 Instead of the usual grand, furnished interior, Wiley has placed Obama in a slightly surrealist landscape where vegetation partially obscures his legs and feet. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "Michelle Obama’s Mount Rushmore Moment," 14 Feb. 2018 With this single gesture, the artist both partially obscures the painting’s view and adds a new, living layer to the surface of the work. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "‘Open Casket’ and the Question of Empathy," 28 Mar. 2017 The roiling air above Keck blurs the details that are already obscured by the gas. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Galaxy mergers hide ravenous supermassive black holes," 14 Nov. 2018 All of this means that sometimes a hive or nest is obscured instead of out in the open. Korin Miller, SELF, "7 Tips to Prevent Bee and Wasp Stings When Exploring the Great Outdoors," 10 Oct. 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, Verb, and Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about obscure

Statistics for obscure

Last Updated

17 Apr 2019

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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

to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!