I want to say, "The smoke obscures the trees."

But I want to say it as a property of the smoke, "Tree [obscurtion] of the smoke."

I need it in this form because I am creating a list of descriptors about the smoke: "Simulation of the wind drift, blue color, dissipation, and tree [obscurtion] of the smoke."

Is there a form of obscure that does that?

  • 3
    obfuscate, obfuscation, obfuscatory merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obfuscate
    – KnightHawk
    Oct 17, 2014 at 17:12
  • 2
    If the property is specifically that the smoke obscures trees, I'd make it one word: one property of the smoke is "tree-obscuring".
    – neminem
    Oct 17, 2014 at 18:02
  • 2
    "Obfuscation" is one of my favorite words, but I usually use it when referring to English, not smoke.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 17, 2014 at 19:35
  • @HotLicks: One meaning of obfuscation is "Darkening or obscuring the sight of something" (WordWeb on line).
    – Drew
    Oct 17, 2014 at 22:12
  • The optical terms for obstruction by smoke are "attenuation" or "single/multiple scattering", depending on how precise you want to be.
    – geometrian
    Oct 18, 2014 at 1:36

5 Answers 5


In OP's context, tree is being used as an attributive noun, which obviously requires a "real" noun to follow it. Technically speaking, possible nouns with the required meaning (the act or fact of being obscured) include...

obscuration, occultation, hiding, concealment, etc.

...but personally I think the entire construction is "awkward", and it would be better to rephrase. Apart from anything else, "the tree obscuration of the mist" could just as easily be interpreted as...

1: [the tree obscuration of] the mist (the mist obscures the trees)
2: the tree [obscuration of the mist] (the trees obscure the mist)

  • I agree that I would interpret "the tree obscuration of the smoke" as the trees hiding the smoke, not the other way around.
    – Marthaª
    Oct 17, 2014 at 17:45
  • @Marthaª: Oftentimes in the written form we use a hyphen to force the target of the attributive noun. So it's obvious with the dodo-killing of the sailors we mean the killing of dodos done by the sailors (quite apart from the fact that we probably wouldn't expect dodos to kill sailors! :). So arguably in the absence of a hyphen you might incline to the alternative reading regardless of context. But mostly I think the basic form is inherently ambiguous without context, punctuation, or intonation to guide the audience/reader. Oct 17, 2014 at 18:37

I would go for

Simulation of the wind drift, blue color, dissipation, and obscuring effect / opacity of the smoke.

Then, if you really need to mention the trees but you want to be very concise, put them in parenthesis, so that they don't get mixed up with the main phrase.

Simulation of the wind drift, blue color, dissipation, and obscuring effect (trees etc.) of the smoke.

I don't much care for tree-obscuration as a noun.

A standard measure of smoke is the Ringelmann chart. Although I frequently here people talking about opacity (I sometimes work on proposals for industrial flares) the term used in this document is simply density. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/userfiles/works/pdfs/ic8333.pdf


The opacity of the smoke obscures the tree.

  • I'm trying to formulate that into my list... but I can't seem to make it reference obscuring the trees. I can say, "Simulation of the wind drift, blue color, dissipation, and opacity of the smoke." But I would like to explicitly state that it is the trees which are obscured. Oct 17, 2014 at 16:54
  • Give us a complete sentence. Oct 17, 2014 at 16:58
  • "The simulation illustrates the wind drift, blue color, dissipation, and tree [obscurtion] of smoke." Oct 17, 2014 at 17:03
  • "Tree-obscuring opacity" might work.
    – Jander
    Oct 17, 2014 at 19:06
  • It would not be typical English.
    – Ornello
    Oct 17, 2014 at 20:09

Obfuscation, as in

The tree-obfuscation of the smoke

While obfuscate is somewhat less common than obscure, I have never heard the word obscuration before in my life; obfuscation seems more common to me. Ngram confirms that my lifetime has been marked by relatively high popularity of obfuscation, and relatively low popularity of obscuration. Worth noting that this trend is only about 40 years old, however, and obscuration at its height (in 1852) was far more popular than obfuscation is today.

Still, today, obfuscation is more than twice as common as obscuration.

All that said, the construction here is very odd, though. Consider this rewording:

The smoke's obfuscation of the tree

Identical in meaning, retains the emphasis on this obfuscation of the tree as a property of the smoke, and reads much better in my opinion.


English does not offer such a construction, at least I cannot think of one. You have to say 'the opacity of the smoke obscures the trees', as FumbleFingers also points out.

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