Weekly Word – Nebulous

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter N:

Part of Speech:

Adjective

Meaning:

1.  Cloudy, misty or hazy e.g. indistinct shapes in the gloom

2.  (Of a concept) lacking definite form or limits; vague; not clearly defined or easy to understand

3.  (As in astronomy) of, relating to, or characteristic of a nebula or nebulae (plural) in deep space; nebular

  • For a good, simple definition of a nebula and nebulae see this one from Nasa.
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Pronunciation:

neb·u·lous  /  neb-yuh-luhs   (nĕb′yə-ləs)

Audio Link:

NEBULOUS

Related Forms:

nebulously (adverb)

nebulousness (noun)

Synonyms:

Ambiguous  amorphous  indistinct  indefinite  indeterminate  unclear  vague  ill-defined  imprecise hazy  cloudy  murky misty  fuzzy unformed  shadowy  confused  lacking definition  opaque  blurred  blurry  out of focus  foggy  faint  shadowy  dim  obscure  shapeless  formless  nebulose

Antonyms:

clear  well-defined

Word Origin:

As in Sense I: Middle English (1375-1425) from Latin nebulōsus, from nebula, cloud

Sense 2 dates from the 19th century

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1.  Believing himself to be alone in the deserted old farmhouse, the nebulous shape coming towards him in the hall gave Jim the shock of his life. There was nothing for it but to turn tail and run.

SuperHerftigGeneral from Pixabay
SuperHerftigGeneral from Pixabay

2.  After listening for the best part of an hour to the CEO rambling nebulously about his plans to increase the productivity of the firm, few of the employees were any the wiser.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

3.  Waking up in a hospital bed following the car accident, Mike’s memory of what happened was decidedly nebulous for several hours.

Image by Akent879 from Pixabay

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose (even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

shutterstock_558169333
Image  from Shutterstock

16 thoughts on “Weekly Word – Nebulous

  1. Good one! My guess at the definition was: vague or confusing. Which is mostly correct, although the information you give here makes it clear (I might even say, less nebulous) that it’s a specific *type* of confusing. Thanks for helping fine tune my knowledge!

    1. The definitions between Meanings 1 and 2 are very similar and I searched through a number of online sites to find the clearest definitions. Some made no clear distinction between the two (which is why I haven’t differentiated in the synonyms). One or two stated that Meaning 1 was generally British, which possibly agrees with the date of the word origin (although, I’d have thought that at least some British settlers in the Americas would have taken that meaning with them). It’s all too nebulous for me to be pondering on right now…. Lol. Let’s just agree that nebulous is an interesting and very confusing word!

      1. That’s a good point: my idea of nebulous meaning vague was really more about meaning 2, that a concept or explanation was vague. I’m not sure I would naturally think about nebulous as describing something visual that looks hazy — er, like a nebula (oh right, duh). Sounds to me like you did a great job of finding a set of definitions that differentiated between the two.

    1. Yes, it’s an interesting word, Jill, and its different uses leave much food for thought. I might even use it in my writing one day. Can’t think where right now, mind… 😀

  2. Hazy and unclear seems to be the main definition of this word, Arv, so you’re absolutely right – and thank you you for commenting. I have to admit, nebulous isn’t a word I hear spoken often in the UK, either. Nonetheless, I find it an interesting word.

  3. I think this is a word that melts in your mouth. When you look at the nebula picture, it’s easy to understand where the word origins. I also can’t remember using it in my writing yet — but the future is nebulous. . .

  4. The future is certainly nebulous for all of us, Hanne. That’s a good use of the word, so thank you for sharing it. I wouldn’t have used nebulous in one of my books so far, but I could probably use it in a story set much later than the 9th century. The word does have a nice sound to it.

  5. That’s the thing about words. They can convey an atmosphere. Having said that, it seems such a pity that modern writers avoid adjectives so much. Overuse is obviously a no go, but the odd one can make a huge difference.

  6. I agree with you. A piece of descriptive writing without a single adjective would be very dull, although overuse could ruin it. The same applies to adverbs, and again, many people say adverbs shouldn’t be used at all. I do try to avoid them as a rule, though I’m sure the odd one or two sneak in now and then.

  7. The number of rules that we impose on ourselves as writers can be stifling indeed. At the end of the day, we have to find a balance, and that’s what makes every writer unique. Some are uniquely bad of course, but others have voices that resonate. I believe it’s down to talent, but also to the amount of work and thought put into a text.

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