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See more synonyms for inscrutable on Thesaurus.com
  1. incapable of being investigated, analyzed, or scrutinized; impenetrable.
  2. not easily understood; mysterious; unfathomable: an inscrutable smile.
  3. incapable of being seen through physically; physically impenetrable: the inscrutable depths of the ocean.
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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

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Synonym study

1. See mysterious.

Antonyms for inscrutable

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for inscrutable

Contemporary Examples of inscrutable

Historical Examples of inscrutable

  • Mary regarded the girl with an expression that was inscrutable when she spoke again.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Her red lips smiled softly, and her eyes were dark and inscrutable.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • The old soldiers, for some inscrutable reason, go for goose to a man.

  • The Chief Inspector stood it well, deferential but inscrutable.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • The image returned his unwavering gaze with inscrutable kindness.

British Dictionary definitions for inscrutable


  1. incomprehensible; mysterious or enigmatic
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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 inscrutable


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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper