in·​scru·​ta·​ble | \ in-ˈskrü-tə-bəl How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \

Definition of inscrutable

: not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood : mysterious an inscrutable smile inscrutable motives

Other Words from inscrutable

inscrutability \ in-​ˌskrü-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ noun
inscrutableness \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ noun
inscrutably \ in-​ˈskrü-​tə-​blē How to pronounce inscrutable (audio) \ adverb

Did you know?

Scrutinizing the inscrutable may be futile: even close scrutiny can fail to decipher it. Scrutinizing the scrutable, on the other hand, is likely to yield some understanding. All of these scrut- words have the same Latin root: scrutari, meaning “to search or examine.” While scrutiny, scrutinize, and inscrutable all prove themselves useful in everyday discourse, English speakers don’t tend to call much on scrutable, which functions as a synonym of comprehensible.

Examples of inscrutable in a Sentence

Supersymmetry is a magic mirror, and everything in what we imagine to be the real world has its ghostly, inscrutable mirror image. — Ian Stewart, Prospect, September 2003 Of all the myths that have grown up around Alan Greenspan, the most powerful is the idea that he's willfully inscrutable. — James Surowiecki, New Yorker, 22 Jan. 2001 That wily politicians might adopt Franklin's distinction between appearance and reality to become inscrutable confidence men did not seem to trouble him. — John H. Summers, Journal of American History, December 2000 an inscrutable work of art He was a quiet, inscrutable man.
Recent Examples on the Web Through conversations with an unseen neighbor and after a series of inscrutable tests, Nell gradually concocts an escape plan. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2022 Is the thoroughly inscrutable David Hanson a genius or a charlatan? Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 June 2022 That moment returns to mind in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, in which yet another group of innocents was slain for arbitrary, inscrutable reasons. The New Yorker, 4 June 2022 The 23-year-old Irish actress is the compelling lead of the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends, starring as Frances, a college student who begins an affair with handsome, older actor (played by an inscrutable Joe Alwyn). Emily Burack, Town & Country, 20 May 2022 The factory is inscrutable yet material, its very scale deflating workers’ sense of worth. Stephen Kearse, The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2022 Three films in, J.K. Rowling's sumptuous, inscrutable series remains a mystery, a lacquered box of whimsy that lives just adjacent to Harry Potter and somehow much further from a sensical plot. Leah Greenblatt,, 15 Apr. 2022 These challenges — byzantine catalogs, an inscrutable internal language, a lack of access to materials — impact historians along with anyone whose field benefits from an understanding of the past. Hallel Yadin, Longreads, 24 Mar. 2022 Our daughters played in the old grain silo, filched cookies from the pastry kitchen, drew a dozen inscrutable pictures. Aria Beth Sloss, Bon Appétit, 22 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inscrutable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of inscrutable

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inscrutable

Middle English, from Late Latin inscrutabilis, from Latin in- + scrutari to search — more at scrutiny

Learn More About inscrutable

Time Traveler for inscrutable

Time Traveler

The first known use of inscrutable was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About inscrutable

Dictionary Entries Near inscrutable




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for inscrutable

Last Updated

7 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Inscrutable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on inscrutable

Nglish: Translation of inscrutable for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inscrutable for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!