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obscene

[uh b-seen]
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adjective
  1. offensive to morality or decency; indecent; depraved: obscene language.
  2. causing uncontrolled sexual desire.
  3. abominable; disgusting; repulsive.

Origin of obscene

First recorded in 1585–95, obscene is from the Latin word obscēnus, obscaenus
Related formsob·scene·ly, adverbob·scene·ness, nounun·ob·scene, adjectiveun·ob·scene·ly, adverbun·ob·scene·ness, noun
Can be confusedlewd obscene pornographic profanatory profane
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for obscene

obscene

adjective
  1. offensive or outrageous to accepted standards of decency or modesty
  2. law (of publications) having a tendency to deprave or corrupt
  3. disgusting; repellentan obscene massacre
Derived Formsobscenely, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Latin obscēnus inauspicious, perhaps related to caenum filth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for obscene

adj.

1590s, "offensive to the senses, or to taste and refinement," from Middle French obscène (16c.), from Latin obscenus "offensive," especially to modesty, originally "boding ill, inauspicious," of unknown origin; perhaps from ob "onto" (see ob-) + caenum "filth." Meaning "offensive to modesty or decency" is attested from 1590s. Legally, in U.S., it hinged on "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest." [Justice William Brennan, "Roth v. United States," June 24, 1957]; refined in 1973 by "Miller v. California":

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Related: Obscenely.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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