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From Old French obscur, from Latin obscūrus (dark, dusky, indistinct), possibly, from ob (over) + -scurus (covered), from root scu (cover), seen also in scutum (a shield); see scutum, sky.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əbˈskjʊə(ɹ)/, /əbˈskjɔː(ɹ)/
  • (US) IPA(key): /əbˈskjʊɚ/
  • (file)


obscure (comparative obscurer or more obscure, superlative obscurest or most obscure)

  1. Dark, faint or indistinct.
    • Dante Alighieri, Inferno, 1, 1-2
      I found myself in an obscure wood.
    • Bible, Proverbs xx. 20
      His lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
  2. Hidden, out of sight or inconspicuous.
    • William Shakespeare
      The obscure bird / Clamoured the livelong night.
    • Sir J. Davies
      the obscure corners of the earth
  3. Difficult to understand.
    • 2013 August 3, “The machine of a new soul”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8847: 
      The yawning gap in neuroscientists’ understanding of their topic is in the intermediate scale of the brain’s anatomy. Science has a passable knowledge of how individual nerve cells, known as neurons, work. It also knows which visible lobes and ganglia of the brain do what. But how the neurons are organised in these lobes and ganglia remains obscure.
    an obscure passage or inscription;    The speaker made obscure references to little-known literary works.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The comparative obscurer and superlative obscurest, though formed by valid rules for English, are less common than more obscure and most obscure.



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



obscure (third-person singular simple present obscures, present participle obscuring, simple past and past participle obscured)

  1. (transitive) To render obscure; to darken; to make dim; to keep in the dark; to hide; to make less visible, intelligible, legible, glorious, beautiful, or illustrious.
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
      They are all couched in a pit hard by Herne's oak, with obscured lights.
    • William Wake (1657-1737)
      There is scarce any duty which has been so obscured by the writings of learned men as this.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, The Unknown Ajax:
      But Richmond [] appeared to lose himself in his own reflections. Some pickled crab, which he had not touched, had been removed with a damson pie; and his sister saw, peeping around the massive silver epergne that almost obscured him from her view, that he had eaten no more than a spoonful of that either.
  2. (transitive) To hide, put out of sight etc.
    • Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, page 62
      I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity.
  3. (intransitive, obsolete) To conceal oneself; to hide.


External links[edit]





  1. feminine form of obscur





  1. vocative masculine singular of obscūrus