incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized; impenetrable.
not easily understood; mysterious; unfathomable: an inscrutable smile.
incapable of being seen through physically; physically impenetrable: the inscrutable depths of the ocean.

Origin of inscrutable

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English word from Late Latin word inscrūtābilis. See in-3, scrutable
Related formsin·scru·ta·bil·i·ty, in·scru·ta·ble·ness, nounin·scru·ta·bly, adverb

Synonyms for inscrutable

Synonym study

1. See mysterious.

Antonyms for inscrutable Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for inscrutability

Contemporary Examples of inscrutability

  • Not only can this create a feeling of helplessness, it also lends drones an inscrutability that can feel threatening.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Drones Make Us Nervous

    Josh Dzieza

    May 17, 2013

  • She prepares for her whirlwind, worldwide fashion week tour with inscrutability and perfectionism.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Fashion's Other Anna

    Paul Flynn

    September 26, 2010

Historical Examples of inscrutability

  • It was all humbug––all this mummery about intuitions and unerring perception and inscrutability.


    Holworthy Hall

  • In a kind of radiance, superb in her inscrutability, she laughed before him.

    The Rainbow

    D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence

  • And he was so glad that this decree was inexorable, that its inscrutability did not trouble him at all.

  • Was it not De Quincey that had a horror of the Chinese—of their inhumaneness and their inscrutability?

    From Sea to Sea

    Rudyard Kipling

  • "I hope so," she said, with no diminution of her inscrutability.

    The Regent

    E. Arnold Bennett

British Dictionary definitions for inscrutability



incomprehensible; mysterious or enigmatic
Derived Formsinscrutability or inscrutableness, nouninscrutably, adverb

Word Origin for inscrutable

C15: from Late Latin inscrūtābilis, from Latin in- 1 + scrūtārī to examine
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 inscrutability

1650s, from inscrutable + -ity.



c.1500, from Late Latin inscrutabilis, from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + scrutabilis, from scrutari "examine, ransack" (see scrutiny). Related: Inscrutably.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper