Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahb-n(y)u-bê-lêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Cloudy, foggy, fuzzy, hazy. 2. Murky, obscure, vague, nebulous, inexplicit.

Notes: Today's word has a rich and happy family. There is the verb, also spelled obnubilate, but pronounced slightly differently [ahb-nu-bê-layt], and a process noun, obnubilation. Obnubilate also has a sister adjective, obnubilous, with the same meaning, although it tends to be preferred when referring to physical clouds or fog.

In Play: There are so many English words with the literal and figurative meaning "murky" (see Meaning above) that we hardly need another. But this is a good word to use when you just want to show off your vocabulary: "His arguments are so obnubilate as to frustrate even the most meticulous attempts to penetrate them." Keep in mind this Good Word's good family, too: "Don't obnubilate the discussion with facts, Percival."

Word History: Today's word comes from the past participle of Latin obnubilare "to darken, obscure" from ob "before, in front of" + nubilare "to be cloudy or overcast." The stem of this word is the adjective nubilus "cloudy"—also in use in English as nubilous "cloudy; vague, unclear" from nubes "cloud". It is apparently related to German Nebel "fog", Sanskrit nabhas "fog", and Russian nebo "sky", though exactly how the [i] and the [u] metathesized is itself a bit obnubilate. Latin also has the word nebula "cloud, fog" without the switch of the rounded vowel [o, u] with the unrounded one [I, e].

Dr. Goodword,

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