I see the words used in the same situations. Is there a particular difference that would help me understand when each one should be used?

Etymology Obfuscate
Latin fuscus for dark

Etymology Obscure
Latin obscurus for dark


If you are being evasive, unclear, or obscure about a truth, you are obfuscating.

I would use obfuscation when truth is played with deliberately.

  • The people who are good at obfuscating would include defense lawyers and politicians.
  • The loan contract was filled with legal words meant to obfuscate trusting borrowers.

If something is obscure, it's vague and hard to see.

  • Be careful if you're driving in heavy rain — the painted lines can be obscured.
  • The big elm tree obscures our view of the valley.
  • The information was obscured by price stickers
  • It was a way to obscure the sun or the moon.
  • I believe the poster wanted to know the difference between the verb forms. Your definition of "obscure" is adjectival, even though not all of your examples are.
    – Rusty Tuba
    Dec 11 '14 at 17:24
  • In the first of your examples of obscure, you are not using it as a verb. If you want it to be a verb it would have to be obscured, as the past participle would be required. The way you have it is as an adjective or complement to the verb 'to be'.
    – WS2
    Dec 11 '14 at 17:24
  • @WS2, post updated, thanks,the distinction was obscured.
    – Misti
    Dec 11 '14 at 17:30
  • I actually wasn't looking specifically for the verb forms, or any other specific form of the words. These words seem to have other forms that are used more or less often than the other. The examples here are excellent for understanding the key difference in definitions.
    – agweber
    Dec 11 '14 at 17:57

If you're using them both as verbs, i.e. someone is trying to be vague about what they are stating, "obscure" is probably a bit softer (like, maybe they're trying to spare someone's feelings) - "obfuscate" is more like intentional deception.


Both words can be used as verbs in a sense meaning "to hide" something. You can obscure my view of the painting by standing in front of me or draping the artwork with a cloth, but that's not obfuscation. When you obfuscate, you also befuddle or confuse, though this can be unintentional. For example, if you use a lot of jargon you might unknowingly obfuscate the true meaning of your words (i.e., render yourself unintelligible) to a layperson or, through fast talk and slick rhetoric, you may purposefully hide your meaning.

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