Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Nebulous

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is nebulous. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Nebulous is often used as a synonym of indistinct or vague, but can also be used to refer to something that is related to or that resembles a nebula.

// Daniel’s description of the film was so nebulous that I’m still not quite sure what it is about.

NEBULOUS in Context

“Instead of promoting nebulous concepts of ‘diplomacy,’ we should turn to the principles of negotiations and focus on concrete questions.” — Anastassia Fedyk, The Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2022

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.”

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