neb·​u·​lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs How to pronounce nebulous (audio) \

Definition of nebulous

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a nebula : nebular
2 : indistinct, vague … this nebulous thing called jazz.— Josef Woodard … the nebulous region between mere suspicion and probable cause— W. R. LaFave & J. H. Israel The plan is too nebulous.

Other Words from nebulous

nebulously adverb
nebulousness noun

Did you know?

Nebulous may sound other-worldly—after all, it’s related to nebula, which refers to a distant galaxy or an interstellar cloud of gas or dust—but its mysteriousness is rooted in more earthly unknowns. Both words ultimately come from Latin nebula, meaning “mist, cloud,” and as far back as the 14th century nebulous could mean simply “cloudy” or “foggy.” Nebulous has since the late 17th century been the adjective correlating to nebula (as in “nebulous gas”), but the word is more familiar in its figurative use, where it describes things that are indistinct or vague, as when Jack London wrote of “ideas that were nebulous at best and that in reality were remembered sensations.”

Examples of nebulous in a Sentence

These philosophical concepts can be nebulous. made nebulous references to some major changes the future may hold
Recent Examples on the Web Overall, the symptoms can appear nebulous and can easily be mistaken for other conditions. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 28 July 2022 Tillman offers her story in part as a cautionary tale, in part as a variation on this familiar if nebulous tale. Anna Altman, The New Republic, 26 July 2022 Raiff plays recent college graduate Andrew, and the movie explores that nebulous period in your early 20s of stumbling around trying to figure out what comes next. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 25 July 2022 It’s a concept nebulous enough to be made to seem offensive or evil. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1 July 2022 Because nuclear disarmament dominated the peace movement in the ‘60s, and most peaceniks didn’t know semaphore, the symbol circulated far and wide, attaining universal recognizability while becoming increasingly nebulous in meaning. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 27 June 2022 Gott's return from a right groin strain is a little nebulous. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 21 June 2022 The reasons for all of this are a bit nebulous with lots of talk about demand unexpectedly outpacing supply, but there’s likely a healthy dose of opportunism here as well. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 19 June 2022 Facing the threat of arrest under Hong Kong’s nebulous NSL, many pro-democracy groups have disbanded, leaving pro-establishment parties as the dominant political force in the city. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 4 Apr. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of nebulous

1674, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nebulous

Latin nebulosus misty, from nebula

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The first known use of nebulous was in 1674

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Dictionary Entries Near nebulous



nebulous cluster

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Last Updated

4 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nebulous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for nebulous


neb·​u·​lous | \ ˈne-byə-ləs How to pronounce nebulous (audio) \

Kids Definition of nebulous

: not clear : vague

More from Merriam-Webster on nebulous

Nglish: Translation of nebulous for Spanish Speakers


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