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From Middle English mysterie, from Anglo-Norman misterie, from Old French mistere, from Latin mysterium, from Ancient Greek μυστήριον (mustḗrion, a mystery, a secret, a secret rite), from μύστης (mústēs, initiated one), from μυέω (muéō, I initiate), from μύω (múō, I shut).


mystery (plural mysteries)

  1. Something secret or unexplainable; an unknown.
    The truth behind the events remains a mystery.
    • 1927, F. E. Penny, chapter 4, Pulling the Strings:
      The case was that of a murder. It had an element of mystery about it, however, which was puzzling the authorities. A turban and loincloth soaked in blood had been found; also a staff.
  2. Someone or something with an obscure or puzzling nature.
    That man is a mystery.
    • Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
      If God should please to reveal unto us this great mystery of the Trinity, or some other mysteries in our holy religion, we should not be able to understand them, unless he would bestow on us some new faculties of the mind.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 5, The Hocussing of Cigarette[1]:
      Then I had a good think on the subject of the hocussing of Cigarette, and I was reluctantly bound to admit that once again the man in the corner had found the only possible solution to the mystery.
  3. (Catholicism) A particular event or series of events in the life of Christ.
    The second decade of the Rosary concerns the Sorrowful mysteries, such as the crucifixion and the crowning with thorns.
  4. (chiefly in the plural) A secret religious celebration, to which none were admitted except those who had been initiated.
    the Eleusinian mysteries


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