[uh b-sen-i-tee, -see-ni-]
See more synonyms for obscenity on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural ob·scen·i·ties for 2, 3.
  1. the character or quality of being obscene; indecency; lewdness.
  2. something obscene, as a picture or story.
  3. 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 formsan·ti·ob·scen·i·ty, noun, plural an·ti·ob·scen·i·ties, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for obscenity

Contemporary Examples of obscenity

Historical Examples of obscenity

  • 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 plural -ties
  1. the state or quality of being obscene
  2. 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

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

obscenity in Culture


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 (see also four-letter words) and pornography.)

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