Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding; an enigma: How he got in is a mystery.
  • n. One whose identity is unknown and who arouses curiosity: The woman in the photograph is a mystery.
  • n. A mysterious character or quality: a landscape with mystery and charm.
  • n. A work of fiction, a drama, or a film dealing with a puzzling crime.
  • n. The skills, lore, or practices that are peculiar to a particular activity or group and are regarded as the special province of initiates. Often used in the plural: the mysteries of Freemasonry; the mysteries of cooking game.
  • n. A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation.
  • n. An incident from the life of Jesus, especially the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion, or Resurrection, of particular importance for redemption.
  • n. One of the 15 incidents from the lives of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as the Annunciation or the Ascension, serving in Roman Catholicism as the subject of meditation during recitation of the rosary.
  • n. One of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
  • n. The consecrated elements of the Eucharist.
  • n. A religious cult practicing secret rites to which only initiates are admitted.
  • n. A secret rite of such a cult.
  • n. Archaic A trade or an occupation.
  • n. Archaic A guild, as of merchants or artisans.
  • n. A mystery play.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Something secret or unexplainable; unknown.
  • n. Someone or thing with an obscure or puzzling nature.
  • n. A particular event or series of events in the life of Christ.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A profound secret; something wholly unknown, or something kept cautiously concealed, and therefore exciting curiosity or wonder; something which has not been or can not be explained; hence, specifically, that which is beyond human comprehension.
  • n. A kind of secret religious celebration, to which none were admitted except those who had been initiated by certain preparatory ceremonies; -- usually plural.
  • n. The consecrated elements in the eucharist.
  • n. Anything artfully made difficult; an enigma.
  • n. A trade; a handicraft; hence, any business with which one is usually occupied.
  • n. A dramatic representation of a Scriptural subject, often some event in the life of Christ; a dramatic composition of this character.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. plural In ancient religions, rites known to and practised by certain initiated persons only, consisting of purifications, sacrificial offerings, processions, songs, dances, dramatic performances, and the like: as, the Eleusinian mysteries.
  • n. In the Christian Church, especially in the early church and in the Greek Church, a sacrament.
  • n. plural The consecrated elements in the eucharist; in the singular, the eucharist.
  • n. Any religious doctrine or body of doctrines that seems above human comprehension.
  • n. They counte as Fables the holie misteries of Christian Religion.
  • n. In general, a fact, matter, or phenomenon of which the meaning, explanation, or cause is not known, and which awakens curiosity or inspires awe; something that is inexplicable; an enigmatic secret.
  • n. A form of dramatic composition much in vogue in the middle ages, and still played in some parts of Europe in a modified form, the characters and events of which were drawn from sacred history.
  • n. Occupation; trade; office; profession; calling; art; craft.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained
  • n. a story about a crime (usually murder) presented as a novel or play or movie

Etymologies

Middle English misterie, from Latin mystērium, from Greek mustērion, secret rite, from mustēs, an initiate, from mūein, to close the eyes, initiate.
Middle English misterie, service, craft, from Medieval Latin misterium, craft-guild, from Late Latin, alteration of Latin ministerium, occupation, from minister, assistant, servant; see mei-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English mysterie, from Latin mysterium, from Ancient Greek μυστήριον (musterion, "a mystery, a secret, a secret rite"), from μύστης (mustēs, "initiated one"), from μυέω (mueō, "I initiate"), from μύω (muō, "I shut"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "Great is the mystery of godliness," says Paul; and _mystery_ involves the unknown.

    Unity of Good

  • It is the function of the poet to realize and revere the mystery, but it is the duty of philosophy to explore and dissipate it, as far as possible, for _mystery is the foe of human progress_.

    Buchanan's Journal of Man, August 1887 Volume 1, Number 7

  • Still, a pricing system shrouded in mystery is also ripe for abuse.

    Medical pricing a mystery even to the experts

  • Especially since, after the main mystery is resolved, there is all those post-climactic follow-up, which in the end doesnt 'really go anywhere, and all these plot bits are left mysterious and unresolved at the end.

    Breakfast in Bed

  • The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term mystery in theology.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 15: Tournely-Zwirner

  • When we opened the book to the contents page, the title mystery was solved.

    In The Queens' Parlour

  • The White House is about to learn that we're much more inclined to support the candidate who has always been on our side over the candidate who brings new meaning to the term mystery meat.

    post-gazette.com - News

  • Mr. Lazaridis doesn't use the term mystery, but he focuses in the same fashion on solving paradoxes, most particularly for the original breakthrough on how to reduce size for laptops yet create a better and more usable product.

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church ...

    Holy Communion and Non-Catholics

  • And one of the few cards that they can play to some effect is what I call the mystery card: Keeping us and others in the dark about their intentions, their system.

    North Korea's Next Leader A Surprising Secret

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Comments

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  • See hard-shoulder comments

    March 27, 2012

  • "Often used in the plural: the mysteries of Freemasonry; the mysteries of cooking game." - From def. 5 in the American Heritage Dictionary.

    April 10, 2011

  • "infinitely knowable"

    February 18, 2007