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

All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. Emmanuel Iduma, The New York Review of Books, "‘Gone Like a Meteor’: Epitaph for the Lost Youth of the Biafran War," 30 May 2019 What could account for such a willfully, persistently small-minded, obscure, and naive vision of the role of government? Aaron Timms, The New Republic, "The Sameness of Cass Sunstein," 20 June 2019 Λαων, λ αε: etymology obscure, semantic field dubious. Anne Carson, Harper's magazine, "From a manuscript in progress. Carson’s collection of performance pieces," 10 June 2019 Those numbers also obscure big differences in vaccination rates from one zip code to another, spanning from as low as 19 percent in one community in northern Los Angeles County to as high as 99 percent in Watsonville, California. Joanna Pearlstein, WIRED, "California’s Vaccination Rate Slips as Medical Exemptions Rise," 7 June 2019 But the 1619 commemorations almost obscure one important fact: long before English pirates on two ships deposited these new arrivals from modern day Angola in Point Comfort, Virginia, Africans already had a presence in the Americas. Lekan Oguntoyinbo, Quartz Africa, "The 1619 anniversary of Africans in the United States is significant but not the whole story," 6 June 2019 In fact, the book describes a crucial part of the antislavery struggle in which white lawmakers, prominent and obscure, were of principal importance, but where activists, including Frederick Douglass, repeatedly played a vital role. Nicholas Guyatt, The New York Review of Books, "‘No Property in Man’: An Exchange," 6 June 2019 As viewers across the US watched the contestants spell out increasingly fiendish words, Merriam-Webster, the dictionary, saw an uptick in obscure words being searched on its website. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Karmadharaya, thymele, and tjaele: Words from the Spelling Bee’s 8-way-tie finish," 31 May 2019 Out were obscure vocabulary words and a deduction for incorrect answers. Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "SAT Tops College Admissions Rival ACT for First Time in Seven Years," 25 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Faceted like origami, aerials pointed in various directions, much of it was wrapped in gold foil to deal with thermal issues, obscuring its hard-to-follow lines yet further. Oliver Morton, WIRED, "The Beauty and Madness of Sending a Man to the Moon," 4 June 2019 Hawaiian bobtail squid light up via bioluminescent bacteria living in one of their organs; the light camouflages them against moonlight on the surface and eliminates their shadow, obscuring them from predators. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "How bioluminescence works in nature," 2 May 2019 And given the possibility of light-obscuring dust storms on the Red Planet and the moon seeing an uneven amount of sunlight, solar panels may not cut it. John Wenz, Discover Magazine, "NASA's New Nuclear Reactor Could Change Space Exploration," 11 Feb. 2019 There’s no denying that Cambodia’s Angkor has gone into mass tourism mode, its timeless feel all-too-easily obscured by the constant presence of tour groups. Lester V. Ledesma, Condé Nast Traveler, "Beyond the Crowds of Angkor, Cambodia," 12 Apr. 2018 The judges wore black hoods to obscure their faces. Rachel Nolan, Harper's magazine, "A Jagged Scrap of History," 24 June 2019 As the Riggs drivers try to turn left onto FM 1560, they might be met in less than a second by vehicles racing from a quick cut-off from Bandera Road, obscured from view by a beige retaining wall. Bruce Selcraig, ExpressNews.com, "Helotes drivers want quick solution to “free for all” intersection," 11 June 2019 The crash happened shortly before 2 p.m., when clouds obscured the roof of the building. Jim Mustian, Twin Cities, "Helicopter crashes on roof of NYC skyscraper; pilot killed," 10 June 2019 That's in large part because companies that make for-pay software deliberately work to obscure the very existence of the IRS program. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Politicians and Tax Prep Companies Are Teaming Up to Make Sure Filing Stays an Expensive Nightmare," 9 Apr. 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

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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