Definition of cryptic in English:



  • 1Having a meaning that is mysterious or obscure.

    ‘he found his boss's utterances too cryptic’
    • ‘She sings cryptic, mysterious lyrics, letting her voice guide the song.’
    • ‘This is not just the rich texture of external life, relationships, the natural world, occupations, society, but the internal, cryptic dimension of dreams and the sub-conscious.’
    • ‘She differentiates between cryptic graffiti that communicates to others within a closed community, and political graffiti that aims to communicate a message to a wider audience.’
    • ‘It bore the cryptic message, ‘Toilets downstairs then sharp right.’’
    • ‘While it all seems a little cryptic and confused, the duo promise a night of bizarre and sweet surprises where everyone is welcome.’
    • ‘He's always been a cryptic songwriter, fond of oblique references and catchy off-the-wall phrasings, but here his metaphors and jests are haunted with regret and suspicion.’
    • ‘However, the story line later digresses and becomes confusing and cryptic.’
    • ‘I'm having trouble locating full info and images on the web, but the CD insert folded out to become a poster that had cryptic, pie-chart-style graphics for titles.’
    • ‘You might think you are just waiting for a bus, or wandering from room to room looking for your cigarettes, watching a TV show, or reading a cryptic and ambiguous book.’
    • ‘If there's something I want to keep private, then I simply don't write about it, or I write it in such a cryptic way that only I will know what's between the lines, when I read back on it later.’
    • ‘In the Great Depression, hobos who roamed transiently across North America invented pictographic graffiti languages which were cryptic to the police but well understood in their community.’
    • ‘At first glance, this book seems cryptic, threatening and confusing.’
    • ‘It is not that their conversations are obscure or cryptic.’
    • ‘When he felt up to it, he launched himself back into life, leaving behind selected items for safekeeping: his Highland dancing pumps, army hat and journals crammed with cryptic pieces of tattered paper.’
    • ‘The letter bears no signature and no address; it's at once passionate and oblique, fervent and cryptic.’
    • ‘This ambiguous attitude makes his art cryptic: viewers are left grasping at answers.’
    • ‘We should be careful, because the Delphic Oracle used cryptic answers that often left the inquisitor more confused than helped.’
    • ‘His lovingly made mixed-media objects, installations and text-based works possess an engagingly cryptic quality - an aspect of the power of visual art to assert its resemblance to linguistic form.’
    • ‘While the poetry is cryptic, allusive and ambiguous, the prose is lucid, oracular, loftily self-assured.’
    • ‘On the contrary, the singer values his cryptic, enigmatic inscrutability.’
    enigmatic, mysterious, hard to understand, confusing, mystifying, perplexing, puzzling, obscure, abstruse, arcane, oracular, delphic, ambiguous, elliptical, oblique
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    1. 1.1 (of a crossword) having difficult clues which indicate the solutions indirectly.
      • ‘Filling in the various forms is a bit like filling in a cryptic crossword, except that the answers aren't published in the paper the next day.’
      • ‘Conversations were like cryptic crossword clues.’
      • ‘Never trust a person who does cryptic crosswords’
      • ‘I'm a great fan of cryptic crosswords, even though they are tantalisingly difficult.’
      • ‘Anyone keen to learn the secrets of cryptic crosswords will find more than enough clues in this charming memoir, which traces Balfour's own growing fascination with puzzles.’
      • ‘It's like a cryptic crossword, you can look at a clue and not have the foggiest idea of what it is you're aiming for, but get a couple of the letters in place and something can jump out at you.’
      • ‘It may sound like a simple solution to a cryptic clue but it's reality.’
      • ‘This is a book where even the title sounds like a cryptic clue from an Irish Times crossword.’
      • ‘I hate cryptic crosswords, that doesn't tend to be how my intelligence can be applied.’
      • ‘Though densely packed with official papers the narrative is never dull and for the specialist in constitutional niceties the challenge in reading is almost as subtle as a cryptic crossword.’
      • ‘A vexatious variant of the crossword is the cryptic crossword - just reading the clues to a cryptic crossword is enough to reduce whole swathes of the population to weeping and gibbering.’
      • ‘It was his girlfriend who taught him to love cryptic crosswords, as they backpacked across Africa to a new life in London, and it's a passion that seems to have endured.’
      • ‘He left his cryptic crossword on the desk, with two clues still unanswered.’
      • ‘To some, modern poetry is like a cryptic crossword devised by second world war codebreakers.’
      • ‘When was the last time you did a cryptic crossword or challenged yourself with a difficult puzzle to solve?’
      • ‘And that brings us to that special breed of people but for whom the world would be quite clueless about crosswords, cryptic or simple.’
  • 2Zoology
    (of coloration or markings) serving to camouflage an animal in its natural environment.

    ‘cryptic plumage is thought to minimize predation’
    • ‘Pelagic species appear to have converged on four major strategies for crypsis: transparency, mirroring, cryptic coloration, and counterillumination.’
    • ‘While males remain white, females molt into one of the most cryptic plumages known in birds.’
    • ‘This shielding along with the cryptic coloration of the predator prevents the prey from becoming alarmed.’
    • ‘A few species of accipitrids may use cryptic coloration to get close to their prey.’
    • ‘Female hummingbirds have more cryptic coloration than males, most likely so that they do not attract predators to the nest when incubating and feeding chicks.’


Early 17th century: from late Latin crypticus, from Greek kruptikos, from kruptos ‘hidden’. cryptic (sense 2) dates from the late 19th century.