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

  • n. Deficiency or absence of light; darkness.
  • n. The quality or condition of being unknown: "Even utter obscurity need not be an obstacle to [political] success” ( New Republic).
  • n. One that is unknown.
  • n. The quality or condition of being imperfectly known or difficult to understand: "writings meant to be understood . . . by all, composed without deliberate obscurity or hidden motives” ( National Review).
  • n. An instance of being imperfectly known or difficult to understand.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Darkness; the absence of light.
  • n. The state of being unknown; a thing that is unknown
  • n. The quality of being difficult to understand; a thing that is difficult to understand

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of being obscure.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The quality or state of being obscure; darkness; dimness; uncertainty of meaning; unintelligibleness; an obscure place, state, or condition; especially, the condition of being unknown.
  • n. Synonyms Dimness, Gloom, etc. (see darkness), shade, obscuration; retirement, seclusion.

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

  • n. an obscure and unimportant standing; not well known
  • n. the quality of being unclear or abstruse and hard to understand
  • n. the state of being indistinct or indefinite for lack of adequate illumination


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • While any list that highlights lesser known people who toil in obscurity is a good thing i would suggest the following:

    Who Makes A Difference: the C-Ville 20 at

  • Now I appreciate that it may be a political fact of life in Canada that the surest way to send an up-and-coming cabinet minister to obscurity is to suggest that he has a great and glorious future before him, particularly when his Prime Minister is relatively young and healthy.

    Plain Talk

  • The spectacular mistiming of his own 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, doomed the book to short-term infamy and long-term obscurity.

    Deconstructing Obama

  • In each of those incredibly successful series there were stars that rose to the next level and others who have wallowed in obscurity (self-imposed or otherwise).

    Twilight Lexicon » Twilight Fans Only Want to See Stars in Twilight Films

  • Hardly content to toil in obscurity, Schumer honed his ability to insert himself front and center into the biggest issues of the day.

    The Man in the Middle

  • May you live in obscurity and forever be associated with amongst your many crimes Abu Ghraib as Nixon is to Wartergate. —

    Bush to Deliver Farewell Address on Thursday - The Caucus Blog -

  • It is an unlikely position for a company that, had it complied with collusive Japanese business traditions and paid heed to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, would be stuck in obscurity making piston rings.

    Sunday Reading

  • Closer to our own time, Joseph Heller and William Gaddis spent years in obscurity doing menial writing-related work in order to write novels that at first few people cared about.

    Art and Culture

  • I definitely think obscurity is worse for authors.

    Piracy vs Obscurity: Which Is Worse For Authors? by Joanna Penn | The Creative Penn

  • You pay your dues by toiling in obscurity and poverty for years, patiently perfecting your craft and hoping that somewhere, someone will recognize your hard work and give you a shot.

    Joe the Plumber


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  • I spotted a very Wordie-like treatment of the word obscurity in an episode of the TV show QI -- you can watch it here.

    April 25, 2008

  • As in "plucked from obscurity".

    December 30, 2006