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Alternative forms[edit]


From Late Latin crypticus, from Ancient Greek κρυπτικός (kruptikós), from κρυπτός (kruptós, hidden), from κρύπτω (krúptō, to hide). Compare cryptology.


  • IPA(key): /ˈkɹɪptɪk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪptɪk


cryptic (comparative more cryptic, superlative most cryptic)

  1. Having hidden (unapparent) meaning.
  2. Mystified or of an obscure nature.
    • 1665, Joseph Glanvill, “An Apology for Philosophy”, in Scepsis Scientifica: Or, Confest Ignorance, the way to Science, London: E. Cotes, page 182:
      I think the Original of this conceit might be, That the Students of Nature, conſcious to her more cryptick wayes of working, reſolve many ſtrange effects into the nearer efficiency of ſecond cauſes []
  3. Involving use of a code or cipher.
  4. Of a crossword puzzle, or a clue in such a puzzle, using, in addition to definitions, wordplay such as anagrams, homophones and hidden words to indicate solutions.
  5. (zoology) Well camouflaged; having good camouflage.
    Lonomia caterpillars are extremely cryptic.
  6. (zoology) Serving as camouflage.
    cryptic colouring
    • 1911, “Colours of Animals”, in The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, volume V, page 732:
      Episematic characters are far less common than aposematic, and these than cryptic; although, as regards the latter comparison, the opposite impression is generally produced from the fact that concealment is so successfully attained.
  7. (biology, not comparable) Apparently identical, but actually genetically distinct.
    cryptic species
  8. (zoology) Living in a cavity or small cave.
    Synonym: (less common) cryptozoic
    • 1999, Rachel Wood, Reef Evolution, page 95:
      Much of the Permian Capitan reef was strongly differentiated into open surface and cryptic communities.

Derived terms[edit]



cryptic (plural cryptics)

  1. (informal) A cryptic crossword puzzle.
    • 1996, Mary McCarthy, Remember Me, page 85:
      He settled down to the cryptic in the Independent. He loved his crossword. It kept him mentally active, just as gossip did his wife.
    • 2009 February 1, Bill Taylor, “Building a crossword”, in Toronto Star:
      This writer has been solving cryptics for 40 years and can usually crack Araucaria, though it might take a couple of days.

Derived terms[edit]