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)

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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

Feige acknowledged that in his presentation by announcing several projects based on more obscure comic-book titles, demonstrating that his appetite for taking chances is hardly diminished. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Marvel’s Wide-Open Future," 22 July 2019 The work featured timpani, vibraphone and a variety of more obscure instruments and percussive effects. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Michael Colgrass, composer who used humor and headstands to win listeners, dies at 87," 6 July 2019 Author Marion Williamson, one of the more obscure candidates, showed up after Castro and his group had appeared outside the complex. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Castro, Harris, other 2020 hopefuls join forces to blast Trump at migrant detention site in Florida," 28 June 2019 But the more obscure nods for best director may better predict the winner. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "Oscars 2019: Cast Your Ballot," 21 Feb. 2019 Many of football's finest feature in this cohort, yet many more obscure and unique players have also achieved this feat. SI.com, "The Top 50 International Goalscorers of All Time," 18 July 2019 Despite a rough start, when critics said Prime Day resembled a rummage sale featuring discounts on obscure products, the event has evolved into an international shopping phenomenon. Dallas News, "Amazon says Prime Day sales beat Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined," 17 July 2019 It was released only as a bonus single in Japan, and remained obscure and little-heard for decades. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Whitney Houston’s Uncanny New Summer Single," 16 July 2019 The company was the lead financier of Feng's shelved Cell Phone 2, and last month its $80 million war epic The Eight Hundred was also pulled shortly before release, for obscure political reasons similar to those that derailed The Hidden Sword. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, "China's Tightening Censorship Is Making a Bad Box Office Year Even Worse," 16 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

One key takeaway: Warming across the country is very uneven, and the severity of things — especially for the northeast — is obscured by regions where little warming has taken place. Forrest Milburn, Washington Post, "Daily News Quiz: Hong Kong protests, climate change, battleground 2020," 14 Aug. 2019 The regulations stipulate that the areas for consumption must be separate from where cannabis is sold, and the whole area must be obscured from the public by an opaque fence or tent that is at least 8 feet tall, said Rodriguez. Melia Russell, SFChronicle.com, "Pot at Outside Lands: SF festival seeks permit to light up," 24 July 2019 The Chilean government is expecting at least 400,000 visitors, all eager to catch a glimpse of totality — the moment when the sun’s bright disk is completely obscured. NBC News, "Total solar eclipse will darken skies over South America next week," 27 June 2019 Starting Thursday, tweets that Twitter deems in the public interest, but which violate the service’s rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation. Barbara Ortutay, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump’s next tweet could get a warning label," 27 June 2019 Starting Thursday, tweets that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violate the service's rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation and Twitter's reasons for publishing it anyway. Barbara Ortutay, chicagotribune.com, "The president’s next tweet could get a warning label," 27 June 2019 To her credit, Queen Maxima pulled it off with ease, seeming to scarcely notice that half of her visual field was obscured by a pile of faux blossoms. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Queen Maxima of the Netherlands Wears a Show-Stopping Hat to Royal Ascot," 18 June 2019 And let’s be real, Fantastic Beasts is a totally new franchise arc that’s headed who-knows-where, and Rowling’s vision is deeply obscured in The Crimes of Grindelwald. Aja Romano, Vox, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald feels like a giant prologue for some other movie," 17 Nov. 2018 Windows are obscured by signs, giant photos, curtains or darkened glass. USA Today, "Sex trafficking is behind the lucrative illicit massage business. Why police can't stop it.," 30 July 2019

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

7 Aug 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 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

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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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