Definition of obscure in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /əbˈskjʊə/

adjective (obscurer, obscurest)

1Not discovered or known about; uncertain: his origins and parentage are obscure
More example sentences
  • When in such situations the essential basis of territorial sovereignty is lacking or confused, the situation is obscure and uncertain from a legal point of view.
  • Late in the week I discovered that for some obscure reason one of my friends, Caroline, was married to a different man and had different children.
  • For reasons that are obscure and mysterious to nobody but a three-day-old child, the former culture minister was this week informed his desk was in the lift and that he was now free to spend more time with his record collection.
unclear, uncertain, unknown, in doubt, doubtful, dubious, mysterious, hazy, vague, indeterminate, concealed, hidden
1.1Not important or well known: a relatively obscure actor
More example sentences
  • Disillusioned and sickened, Balashov achieves salvation by joining the Skoptsy, an obscure religious sect that existed until only a few decades ago.
  • You could become a flagellant in some obscure religious sect.
  • As a reporter for a major magazine she intended to write about what would no doubt be an odd, perhaps even bizarre practice by an obscure religious sect.
little known, unknown, unheard of, undistinguished, insignificant, unimportant, inconsequential, inconspicuous, unnoticed, nameless, anonymous, minor, humble, lowly, unrenowned, unsung, unrecognized, unhonoured, inglorious, forgotten
2Not clearly expressed or easily understood: obscure references to Proust
More example sentences
  • In fact you appear to have to be very advanced in magical theory in order to understand most of the obscure written references about it.
  • Still, this is a Frank Black album, with its obscure references and abstruse lyrics.
  • Pondering the wisdom of basing a key joke on an obscure music reference that most people won't understand, I wander back downstairs to the lounge.
2.1Hard to make out or define; vague: grey and obscure on the horizon rose a low island I feel an obscure resentment
More example sentences
  • It's to Professor McWorter's credit that he developed the right idea from a vague representation of an obscure intuition.
  • In the voice, words are flooded with soulful intentionality; the soul emerges briefly from the obscure corporeal dark and is suddenly there.
  • Yet while Fassbinder remains a signal figure for those who recall his '70s heyday, to a new generation he's something of an obscure shadow from the past.


[with object]
1Keep from being seen; conceal: grey clouds obscure the sun
More example sentences
  • Thick, grey, rain-laden clouds obscure the warm morning sun, casting a certain dreariness upon the land of Myrmar below.
  • The sun was obscured by high, grey cloud, its disc appearing at once flat and lifeless.
  • The sun had been long since covered by the mass of clouds that obscured the grey sky when the new recruitment returned upon a chestnut mare with a large backpack upon his shoulders.
hide, conceal, cover, veil, shroud, screen, mask, cloak, cast a shadow over, shadow, envelop, mantle, block, block out, blank out, obliterate, eclipse, overshadow
literary enshroud, bedim, benight
1.1Make unclear and difficult to understand: the debate has become obscured by conflicting ideological perspectives
More example sentences
  • The network news means to correct this tendency, but unclear language obscures the truth, no matter in whose interest one employs it.
  • In this context, it's a terrible shame that Strange Gardens, even though based on a true incident, only serves to obscure those difficult matters all over again.
  • We understand that anti-Semitism obscures the reality of what it is to be a Jew, and has enabled atrocities great and small to be committed upon the Jewish people.
1.2Keep from being known: none of this should obscure the skill and perseverance of the workers
More example sentences
  • But Kulbert can write, too, a fact obscured by his first skill.
  • By implying that Claire uncovered some dark family secret, Maurice also obscures the real scandal - that, because of a lack of places in children's homes, a number of orphaned kids were institutionalised for life.
  • Exploring a subject that has involved controversies and sensitivities, their research revealed an important story that was obscured for 50 years.



Pronunciation: /ɒbskjʊˈreɪʃ(ə)n/
Example sentences
  • In fact, many kinds of cleverness are just further obscurations.
  • When associated with early morning vomiting, transient obscuration of vision, leg weakness with drop attacks, fits or loss of consciousness, there is a high likelihood of brain tumour.
  • The maximum obscuration of the sun takes place exactly at sunrise, so the best place to be to see it is the Yorkshire Coast with the horizon provided by the North Sea.


Pronunciation: /əbˈskjʊəli/
Example sentences
  • Hackers are the new proletariat, whose creations are being confiscated by what Wark rather obscurely calls the ‘vectoralist’ ruling class.
  • Outside these specialised terms for slaves, there are some usages in the colonial newspapers which parallel those of the English press, but perhaps rather more obscurely.
  • Most obviously and outright in ornament and architecture, fairly clearly in sculpture, rather more obscurely and indirectly in painting, the Renaissance is marked by a return to classical form, and displaces Gothic.


Late Middle English: from Old French obscur, from Latin obscurus 'dark', from an Indo-European root meaning 'cover'.

Words that rhyme with obscure

abjure, adjure, allure, amour, assure, Bahawalpur, boor, Borobudur, Cavour, coiffure, conjure, couture, cure, dastur, de nos jours, doublure, dour, embouchure, endure, ensure, enure, gravure, immature, immure, impure, inure, Jaipur, Koh-i-noor, Kultur, liqueur, lure, manure, moor, Moore, Muir, mure, Nagpur, Namur, parkour, photogravure, plat du jour, Pompadour, procure, pure, rotogravure, Ruhr, Saussure, secure, simon-pure, spoor, Stour, sure, tour, Tours, velour, Yom Kippur, you're

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ob|scure

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.