[ uhb-skyoor ]
See synonyms for: obscureobscuredobscurerobscures on Thesaurus.com

adjective,ob·scur·er, ob·scur·est.
  1. (of meaning) not clear or plain; ambiguous, vague, or uncertain: an obscure sentence in the contract.

  2. not clear to the understanding; hard to perceive: obscure motivations.

  1. (of language, style, a speaker, etc.) not expressing the meaning clearly or plainly.

  2. indistinct to the sight or any other sense; not readily seen, heard, etc.; faint.

  3. inconspicuous or unnoticeable: the obscure beginnings of a great movement.

  4. of little or no prominence, note, fame, or distinction: an obscure French artist.

  5. far from public notice, worldly affairs, or important activities; remote; retired: an obscure little town.

  6. lacking in light or illumination; dark; dim; murky: an obscure back room.

  7. enveloped in, concealed by, or frequenting darkness.

  8. not bright or lustrous; dull or darkish, as color or appearance.

  9. (of a vowel) having the reduced or neutral sound usually represented by the schwa (ə).

verb (used with object),ob·scured, ob·scur·ing.
  1. to conceal or conceal by confusing (the meaning of a statement, poem, etc.).

  2. to make dark, dim, indistinct, etc.

  1. to reduce or neutralize (a vowel) to the sound usually represented by a schwa (ə).


Origin of obscure

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Old French oscur, obscur, from Latin obscūrus “dark”

synonym study For obscure

1. See mysterious. 8. See dark.

word story For obscure

The adjective obscure first appears in English about 1425 (if not earlier); the verb appears around the same time. The adjective obscure comes from Anglo-French and Middle French oscur, obscur “without light, dark (in color), hard to understand,” from Latin obscūrus “dim, dark, dingy, faint,” an adjective made up of the prefix ob- “toward, against” and the adjective scūrus, which does not occur in Latin.
The verb obscure may simply derive from the English adjective by functional shift (a change in the grammatical function of a word). Alternatively, the verb may derive from Middle French obscurer “to make or become dark” or from Latin obscūrāre “to cover, obscure, overshadow, conceal,” a verb derived from obscūrus.
The unrecorded Latin adjective scūrus comes from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)keu-, (s)kū- (with variants) “to cover, envelop” ( scūrus therefore means “covered over”). In Germanic the variant skeu- forms the base of the noun skeujam “cloud cover, cloud,” becoming skȳ “cloud” in Old Norse, which is the immediate source of English sky (a 13th-century borrowing). The variant skū- forms the noun skūmaz “scum” (because it covers the water), which becomes scum in English.

Other words for obscure

Opposites for obscure

Other words from obscure

  • ob·scur·ed·ly [uhb-skyoor-id-lee], /əbˈskyʊər ɪd li/, ob·scure·ly, adverb
  • ob·scure·ness, noun
  • sub·ob·scure, adjective
  • sub·ob·scure·ness, noun
  • un·ob·scure, adjective
  • un·ob·scure·ness, noun
  • un·ob·scured, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use obscure in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for obscure


/ (əbˈskjʊə) /

  1. unclear or abstruse

  2. indistinct, vague, or indefinite

  1. inconspicuous or unimportant

  2. hidden, secret, or remote

  3. (of a vowel) reduced to or transformed into a neutral vowel (ə)

  4. gloomy, dark, clouded, or dim

  1. to make unclear, vague, or hidden

  2. to cover or cloud over

  1. phonetics to pronounce (a vowel) with articulation that causes it to become a neutral sound represented by (ə)

  1. a rare word for obscurity

Origin of obscure

C14: via Old French from Latin obscūrus dark

Derived forms of obscure

  • obscuration (ˌɒbskjʊˈreɪʃən), noun
  • obscurely, adverb
  • obscureness, noun

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