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

Greenwalt and Hupp both received substantial pay raises using an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, over the objections of the White House. Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg.com, "Two Pruitt Aides Who Got Big Raises Resign From EPA," 6 June 2018 But European officials are increasingly irritated by Trump's aggressive use of obscure provisions in U.S. trade laws against U.S. allies. Anchorage Daily News, "Mexico, Canada, Europe retaliate against Trump’s metal tariffs," 31 May 2018 While these have been considered on local and state levels, a relatively obscure 2016 federal law mandated that labels be applied nationwide. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "USDA wants public comments on its plan to label GMO foods," 9 May 2018 An obscure provision, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, allows the U.S. to restrict imports if national security is at stake. Time, "Why Trump’s ‘Forgotten Man’ Still Supports Him," 15 Feb. 2018 But as Vanity Fair rightfully points out, the HFPA has historically awarded newer, more obscure nominees (like Mozart in the Jungle), giving The Kominsky Method a real fighting chance. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "See if Your 2019 Golden Globe Predictions Match Up With the Projected Winners," 5 Jan. 2019 Perhaps the most obscure song on this list, this is a fantastic song to clean the garage to. Ryan D'agostino, Popular Mechanics, "100 Songs to Clean the Garage To," 20 Nov. 2018 These are perhaps the most obscure pieces of the college application puzzle, with rising debate among admissions professionals on whether they are even needed. Nick Anderson, Washington Post, "Fewer students are taking them. Few colleges require them. So why are SAT Subject Tests still needed?," 15 June 2018 Much of the appeal is the fact that the game’s characters span video game history, from the iconic to the obscure. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the complete package," 6 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

To a certain extent, more detail is a good thing, but in some cases the amount of geographical detail actually obscures useful pieces of information, like in this section of rural California. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Apple Maps has surpassed Google Maps in detail… in 3.1 percent of the US," 2 Nov. 2018 That obvious inequity was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, but not without the doctrine of separate but equal being used in the interim to obscure - and justify - horrifying amounts of discrimination. Christine Emba, BostonGlobe.com, "President Trump’s ‘Space Force’ brings back ‘separate but equal’," 20 June 2018 Because it wasn’t placed directly on the ground, wind often obscured the measurements. Julissa Treviño, Smithsonian, "Five Things to Know About NASA’s InSight Mission to Mars," 3 May 2018 Trump used to claim he would be vindicated, and his advisers insisted his periodic fits sprang from an irrational resentment that Mueller was tarnishing his election and obscuring his achievements. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 2018 To Smith's left rests George Hill, partially obscured, his face in a towel. Rob Mahoney, SI.com, "It's Now or Never for George Hill and the Cavaliers," 6 June 2018 Perhaps she was spooked by the photographer at the edge of the pool holding a clicking black box that obscured her face. Mary Carole Mccauley, baltimoresun.com, "National Aquarium dolphins are learning their biggest trick yet — traveling to a new home," 23 May 2018 Trump posed with what seemed to be members of a Navy SEAL team for photographs and then posted it on Twitter without blurring out their faces or obscuring their identity — which violates accepted security protocol. Alexia Underwood, Vox, "Trump’s secret trip to Iraq didn’t quite go as planned," 27 Dec. 2018 The use of Tor, which obscures and anonymizes IP addresses and browser user agents, makes tracking individuals online significantly more difficult. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "ACLU to feds: Your “hacking presents a unique threat to individual privacy”," 21 Dec. 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

6 Feb 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 , 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

very full or close together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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!