Definition of cryptic in English:



  • 1Having a meaning that is mysterious or obscure.

    ‘he found his boss's utterances too cryptic’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The letter bears no signature and no address; it's at once passionate and oblique, fervent and 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This ambiguous attitude makes his art cryptic: viewers are left grasping at answers.’
    • ‘It is not that their conversations are obscure or cryptic.’
    • ‘While it all seems a little cryptic and confused, the duo promise a night of bizarre and sweet surprises where everyone is welcome.’
    • ‘On the contrary, the singer values his cryptic, enigmatic inscrutability.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She sings cryptic, mysterious lyrics, letting her voice guide the song.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While the poetry is cryptic, allusive and ambiguous, the prose is lucid, oracular, loftily self-assured.’
    • ‘It bore the cryptic message, ‘Toilets downstairs then sharp right.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We should be careful, because the Delphic Oracle used cryptic answers that often left the inquisitor more confused than helped.’
    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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When was the last time you did a cryptic crossword or challenged yourself with a difficult puzzle to solve?’
      • ‘This is a book where even the title sounds like a cryptic clue from an Irish Times crossword.’
      • ‘He left his cryptic crossword on the desk, with two clues still unanswered.’
      • ‘Never trust a person who does cryptic crosswords’
      • ‘And that brings us to that special breed of people but for whom the world would be quite clueless about crosswords, cryptic or simple.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'm a great fan of cryptic crosswords, even though they are tantalisingly difficult.’
      • ‘Conversations were like cryptic crossword clues.’
      • ‘It may sound like a simple solution to a cryptic clue but it's reality.’
      • ‘I hate cryptic crosswords, that doesn't tend to be how my intelligence can be applied.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To some, modern poetry is like a cryptic crossword devised by second world war codebreakers.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2Zoology
    (of coloration or markings) serving to camouflage an animal in its natural environment.

    • ‘Pelagic species appear to have converged on four major strategies for crypsis: transparency, mirroring, cryptic coloration, and counterillumination.’
    • ‘This shielding along with the cryptic coloration of the predator prevents the prey from becoming alarmed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A few species of accipitrids may use cryptic coloration to get close to their prey.’
    • ‘While males remain white, females molt into one of the most cryptic plumages known in birds.’


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