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[uh b-sen-i-tee, -see-ni-] /əbˈsɛn ɪ ti, -ˈsi nɪ-/
noun, plural obscenities for 2, 3.
the character or quality of being obscene; indecency; lewdness.
something obscene, as a picture or story.
an obscene word or expression, especially when used as an invective.
Origin of obscenity
1600-10; < French obscenité < Latin obscēnitās, equivalent to obscēn(us) obscene + -itās -ity
Related forms
antiobscenity, noun, plural antiobscenities, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for obscenity
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The second power of vulgarity is obscenity, and this vice is like the pestilence.

  • This is not a criticism of the phallus on grounds of obscenity, but on grounds of buffoonery.


    William Graham Sumner
  • This last degenerated into obscenity, indecency, and disorder.


    William Graham Sumner
  • obscenity arose from everything before her eyes and approached her.

    Germinie Lacerteux Edmond and Jules de Goncourt
  • It is evident that mere nudity in painting and sculpture is not obscenity.

British Dictionary definitions for obscenity


noun (pl) -ties
the state or quality of being obscene
an obscene act, statement, word, etc
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
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Word Origin and History for obscenity

1580s, "obscene quality," from French obscénité, from Latin obscenitatem (nominative obscenitas) "inauspiciousness, filthiness," from obscenus "offensive" (see obscene). Meaning "a foul or loathsome act" is 1610s. Sense of "an obscene utterance or word" is attested by 1690. Related: Obscenities.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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obscenity in Culture

obscenity definition

Behavior, appearance, or expression (such as films and books) that violate accepted standards of sexual morality. American courts have long tried to define obscenity but without much success. Some believe, for example, that any depiction of nudity is obscene; others would argue that nudity in itself is not obscene. (See four-letter words and pornography.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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