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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.
  3. (of language, style, a speaker, etc.) not expressing the meaning clearly or plainly.
  4. indistinct to the sight or any other sense; not readily seen, heard, etc.; faint.
  5. inconspicuous or unnoticeable: the obscure beginnings of a great movement.
  6. of little or no prominence, note, fame, or distinction: an obscure French artist.
  7. far from public notice, worldly affairs, or important activities; remote; retired: an obscure little town.
  8. lacking in light or illumination; dark; dim; murky: an obscure back room.
  9. enveloped in, concealed by, or frequenting darkness.
  10. not bright or lustrous; dull or darkish, as color or appearance.
  11. (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.
  3. to reduce or neutralize (a vowel) to the sound usually represented by a schwa (ə).

Origin of obscure

1350–1400; Middle English < Old French oscur, obscur < Latin obscūrus dark
Related formsob·scur·ed·ly [uhb-skyoor-id-lee] /əbˈskyʊər ɪd li/, ob·scure·ly, adverbob·scure·ness, nounsub·ob·scure, adjectivesub·ob·scure·ly, adverbsub·ob·scure·ness, nounun·ob·scure, adjectiveun·ob·scure·ly, adverbun·ob·scure·ness, nounun·ob·scured, adjective

Synonyms for obscure

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Synonym study

1. See mysterious. 8. See dark.

Antonyms for obscure

1. certain. 4. clear. 6. noted. 7. conspicuous. 8. bright.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for obscured


  1. unclear or abstruse
  2. indistinct, vague, or indefinite
  3. inconspicuous or unimportant
  4. hidden, secret, or remote
  5. (of a vowel) reduced to or transformed into a neutral vowel (ə)
  6. gloomy, dark, clouded, or dim
verb (tr)
  1. to make unclear, vague, or hidden
  2. to cover or cloud over
  3. phonetics to pronounce (a vowel) with articulation that causes it to become a neutral sound represented by (ə)
  1. a rare word for obscurity
Derived Formsobscuration (ˌɒbskjʊˈreɪʃən), nounobscurely, adverbobscureness, noun

Word Origin for obscure

C14: via Old French from Latin obscūrus dark
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 obscured



c.1400, "dark," figuratively "morally unenlightened; gloomy," from Old French obscur, oscur "dark, clouded, gloomy; dim, not clear" (12c.) and directly from Latin obscurus "dark, dusky, shady," figuratively "unknown; unintelligible; hard to discern; from insignificant ancestors," from ob "over" (see ob-) + -scurus "covered," from PIE *(s)keu- "to cover, conceal" (see sky). Related: Obscurely.



early 15c., "to cover (something), cloud over," from obscure (adj.) or else from Middle French obscurer, from Latin obscurare "to make dark, darken, obscure," from obscurus. Related: Obscured; obscuring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper