Abstruse things are difficult to understand because they are so deep and intellectually challenging. It might be hard to figure out how a toilet flushes but the technology that goes into making the Internet function is abstruse.

The Latin roots of the word abstruse are about concealing or hiding something, which is a good way to remember the meaning of this word. It is useful when describing something that is overly confusing, or if someone is deliberately making a story or a situation more complicated than necessary. It sounds and looks like obtuse, but abstruse is almost its opposite. Obtuse is dull or lacking a sharpness of intellect. While Abstruse is president of the chess club, Obtuse is hanging out by the parking lot smoking cigarettes.

Definitions of abstruse

adj difficult to penetrate; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge

“the professor's lectures were so abstruse that students tended to avoid them”
deep, recondite
confined to and understandable by only an enlightened inner circle

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.