[ kris-tl-kleer ]
/ ˈkrɪs tlˈklɪər /
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absolutely clear; transparent; lucid.
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Origin of crystal-clear

First recorded in 1510–20
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does crystal-clear mean?

Crystal-clear literally means completely clear—often meaning you can see right through it.

Crystal is a type of mineral or glass that’s clear—it resembles ice. When crystal-clear is used in this way, it often describes things like perfectly clear water.

But it can also describe things that have perfect clarity—a TV might be said to have a crystal-clear picture, for example. Even things that aren’t visual might be said to be crystal-clear in this way, as in These headphones provide crystal-clear sound.

Crystal-clear can also be used figuratively to mean extremely easy to understand—meaning there’s nothing at all confusing about it. This sense of the word is often used to describe things like instructions or a piece of writing.

Crystal-clear can be used with or without a hyphen. It’s often used with a hyphen when it comes before the thing it describes, as in crystal-clear glass, and without a hyphen when it follows the thing it describes, as in the glass was crystal clear. 

The phrase clear as crystal means the same thing as both senses of crystal-clear. A close synonym for both senses of the word is transparent.

Example: These crystal-clear cleaning instructions will give you crystal-clear windows in no time!

Where does crystal-clear come from?

The first records of the term crystal-clear come from around the 1500s. The word crystal ultimately derives from the Greek krýstallos, meaning “ice” or referring to the clear kind of rock. This word comes from the Greek verb krystaínein, meaning “to freeze.” The word clear has been used since the 1200s, and it’s been used to mean “easy to understand” for just about as long as it’s been used to mean “transparent.”

When a body of water is described as crystal-clear, it means you can see right to the bottom because it’s completely transparent—it has no cloudiness. Similarly, crystal-clear instructions are easily understandable because they’re transparent—they have nothing in them that could cause confusion. Crystal-clear essentially means “as clear as possible.” That’s what you mean when you use it to answer when someone asks, “Have I made myself clear?”

The opposite is opaque, literally meaning “not transparent.” This can be used to describe something that you can’t see through or that you can’t easily understand because it’s confusing.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to crystal-clear?

  • crystal clear (without a hyphen)

What are some synonyms for crystal-clear?

What are some words that share a root or word element with crystal-clear



What are some words that often get used in discussing crystal-clear?


How is crystal-clear used in real life?

Crystal-clear is commonly used both literally and figuratively.



Try using crystal-clear!

Is crystal-clear used correctly in the following sentence?

The crystal-clear homework instructions were extremely convoluted and everyone was very confused by them.

How to use crystal-clear in a sentence