Word: obfuscate

Pronunciation: AHB-fə-skayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today’s Word of the Week is one that I’ve actually been familiar with for a long time, but that for some reason keeps slipping in and out of my memory. I read it most recently in a blog post about pen names, and it suddenly occurred to me that even though I had already read this word several times before in articles and flashcards, I always kept forgetting to add it to my vocabulary list. Given this word’s definition, I suppose you could consider this a humorous coincidence. Isn’t it funny how a word that means “to make obscure” has been repeatedly “obfuscated” in my memory?

To “obfuscate” something is to render it unclear, unintelligible, or obscure. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin verb obfuscare, meaning “to darken”. This verb stems from the adjective fuscus, which means “dark”.

Perhaps it’s silly that I need to keep looking up the word “obfuscate”, since I realize that a good way to remember what it means is noticing that it contains almost all the letters of the word “obscure”. Note that aside from its main definition, which applies to objects and ideas, “obfuscate” can also be used in relation to people to mean “bewilder”. If you write mystery fiction or characters who tend to hide things, you may have fun trying to “obfuscate” some of the details in your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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