What is the difference between obscure and vague?

obscure | vague | Synonyms |

Obscure is a synonym of vague.

As adjectives the difference between obscure and vague

is that obscure is dark, faint or indistinct while vague is not clearly expressed; stated in indefinite terms.

As verbs the difference between obscure and vague

is that obscure is to darken, make faint etc while vague is to wander; to roam; to stray.

As a noun vague is

(obsolete) a wandering; a vagary.




  • Dark, faint or indistinct.
  • * (Dante Alighieri), , 1, 1-2
  • I found myself in an obscure wood.
  • * Bible, Proverbs xx. 20
  • His lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
  • Hidden, out of sight or inconspicuous.
  • * (William Shakespeare)
  • The obscure bird / Clamoured the livelong night.
  • * Sir J. Davies
  • the obscure corners of the earth
  • Difficult to understand.
  • * {{quote-magazine, date=2013-08-03, volume=408, issue=8847, magazine=(The Economist)
  • , title= The machine of a new soul , passage=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 .}}

    Usage notes

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


    * enigmatic * mysterious * esoteric


    * clear

    Derived terms

    * obscurable * unobscurable


  • (label) 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.
  • *{{quote-book, year=1959, author=(Georgette Heyer), title=(The Unknown Ajax), chapter=1
  • , passage=But Richmond
  • (label) 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.
  • To conceal oneself; to hide.
  • * (Beaumont and Fletcher) (1603-1625)
  • How! There's bad news. / I must obscure , and hear it.




  • Not clearly expressed; stated in indefinite terms.
  • *
  • *2004: , Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage
  • *:Throughout the first week of his presidency, Dulles and Bissell continued to brief Kennedy on their strategy for Cuba, but the men were vague and their meetings offered little in the way of hard facts.
  • Not having a precise meaning.
  • :
  • Not clearly defined, grasped, or understood; indistinct; slight.
  • :
  • Not clearly felt or sensed; somewhat subconscious.
  • :
  • Not thinking or expressing one’s thoughts clearly or precisely.
  • Lacking expression; vacant.
  • Not sharply outlined; hazy.
  • *{{quote-book, year=1922, author=(Michael Arlen), title= “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days, chapter=Ep./1/2
  • , passage=He walked. To the corner of Hamilton Place and Picadilly, and there stayed for a while, for it is a romantic station by night. The vague and careless rain looked like threads of gossamer silver passing across the light of the arc-lamps.}}
  • Wandering; vagrant; vagabond.
  • *Sir (c.1564-1627)
  • *:to set upon the vague villains
  • *(John Keats) (1795-1821)
  • *:She danced along with vague , regardless eyes.
  • Synonyms

    * obscure * ambiguous


    (en noun)
  • (obsolete) A wandering; a vagary.
  • (Holinshed)
  • An indefinite expanse.
  • * Lowell
  • The gray vague of unsympathizing sea.


  • To wander; to roam; to stray.
  • * Holland
  • [The soul] doth vague and wander.