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

The pace of emergence of new or obscure vector-borne pathogens through introduction or belated recognition appears to be increasing,’’ the report said. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "Diseases spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas more than tripled in the US," 1 May 2018 Can an obscure company started by three childhood friends with its origins in crowdfunding really make a bicycle worthy of all that cash? Thomas Ricker, The Verge, "Ampler Curt e-bike review: electric doesn’t have to mean big and ugly," 6 Sep. 2018 Then came news that the EPA leader’s office had circumvented the White House and used an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to give large pay increases last month to two top aides, staffers who had come with him from Oklahoma. Brady Dennis, Washington Post, "Scott Pruitt steps down as EPA head after ethics, management scandals," 5 July 2018 Thanks to a court ruling based on an obscure provision of the state constitution, however, it will only be used in federal races in November. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "8 Days After Primary, Maine Democrats Get Their Top Nominees," 21 June 2018 Using an obscure provision in the 1974 Budget Act, the president can freeze spending for 45 days while Congress debates a request to cancel appropriated spending. Fortune, "Senate Defies Trump by Refusing to Cut $15 Billion in Spending," 20 June 2018 Her and Greenwalt's pay increases went through after the two were reappointed under an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act. chicagotribune.com, "After leaving $50-a-night rental, EPA's Scott Pruitt had no fixed D.C. address for a month," 5 Apr. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But obscuring her while trying to post about her started to seem pointless. Sara Gaynes Levy, Glamour, "No, I Won’t Post a Photo of My Kid on Social Media," 16 Jan. 2019 The large number of fraudulent comments helped obscure the fact that about 98.5 percent of unique comments written by individuals were opposed to Pai's repeal. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Report: FBI opens criminal investigation into net neutrality comment fraud," 10 Dec. 2018 Using more advanced machine learning, the team taught computers to identify other types of structures; comprehensive building maps help rescue workers assess damage and prioritize rescue efforts, especially when buildings are obscured by flooding. Emily Strasser, Curbed, "A secret city opens up," 8 Aug. 2018 At other times the figures are nearly obscured by black painterly washes. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "Connecting the dots in Goldberg's variations," 13 July 2018 Showalter believes Gausman is one of many whose progress is obscured by the team’s league-worst record. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Orioles' Kevin Gausman finally rewarded for progress with win over Angels," 1 July 2018 Expect Phoenix Comic Fest cosplayers to bring to life everyone from blockbuster characters to obscure nostalgic entries this weekend. Garrett Mitchell, azcentral, "Phoenix Comic Fest: The cosplay you'll likely see this year," 23 May 2018 The lanky South African was flamboyant, loved the spotlight, stepped on other executives’ toes and talked freely about product plans to obscure the fact that Cadillac’s model line was cadaverously thin compared with other global luxury brands. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "General Motors lacks vision for what Cadillac should become," 24 Apr. 2018 The painting, which is a Madonna composition, was found obscured by a yellow varnish and covered in dirt in the stately home, reports The Guardian. Kelsey Kloss, ELLE Decor, "A Potential $26 Million Raphael Painting Has Been Found In A Scottish Home," 4 Oct. 2016

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

15 May 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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