Obfuscation (or beclouding) is the hiding of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, wilfully ambiguous, and harder to interpret.[citation needed]



Obfuscation may be used for many purposes. Doctors have been accused of using jargon to conceal unpleasant facts from a patient; American author Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a "highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader".[1] B. F. Skinner, noted psychologist, commented on medical notation as a form of multiple audience control, which allows the doctor to communicate to the pharmacist things which might be opposed by the patient if they could understand it.[2] Similarly text-based language, like some forms of leet are obfuscated to make them incomprehensible to outsiders.

"Eschew obfuscation"

"Eschew obfuscation", also stated as "eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation", is a humorous fumblerule used by English teachers and professors when lecturing about proper writing techniques.

Literally, the phrase means "avoid being unclear" or "avoid being unclear, support being clear", but the use of relatively uncommon words causes confusion, making the phrase an example of irony, and more precisely a heterological or hypocritical phrase (it does not embody its own advice).

The phrase has appeared in print at least as early as 1959, when it was used as a section heading in a NASA document.[3]

An earlier similar phrase appears in Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses,[4] where he lists rule fourteen of good writing as "eschew surplusage".

The philosopher Paul Grice used the phrase in the "Maxim of Manner", one of the Gricean maxims.


In cryptography, obfuscation refers to encoding the input data before it is sent to a hash function or other encryption scheme.[citation needed] This technique helps to make brute force attacks unfeasible, as it is difficult to determine the correct cleartext.

In network security, obfuscation refers to methods used to obscure an attack payload from inspection by network protection systems.

See also


  1. ^ Appendix 25 - Medspeak
  2. ^ Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal Behavior p.232
  3. ^ United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Technical Memorandum (1959), p. 171.
  4. ^ Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895)

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Obfuscation — Ob fus*ca tion ([o^]b f[u^]s*k[=a] sh[u^]n), n. [L. obfuscatio.] The act of darkening or bewildering; the state of being darkened. Obfuscation of the cornea. E. Darwin. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • obfuscation — index concealment, evasion, obscuration, opacity, pretext Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • obfuscation — (n.) early 15c., originally medical, the darkening of a sore, from L. obfuscationem (nom. obfuscatio), noun of action from pp. stem of obfuscare (see OBFUSCATE (Cf. obfuscate)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Obfuscation — L obfuscation, assombrissement, ou obscurcissement[1] est une stratégie de protection de la vie privée qui consiste à publier en quantité des informations. De cette manière, on tente de noyer les informations existantes que l on souhaite cacher.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • obfuscation — noun a) The act or process of obfuscating, or obscuring the perception of something; the concept of concealing the meaning of a communication by making it more confusing and harder to interpret. During the debate, the candidate sighed at his… …   Wiktionary

  • obfuscation — obfuscate ► VERB ▪ make unclear or unintelligible. DERIVATIVES obfuscation noun obfuscatory adjective. ORIGIN Latin obfuscare darken …   English terms dictionary

  • Obfuscation (song) — Obfuscation Single by Between the Buried and Me Released September 29, 2009 Recorded June July 2009 …   Wikipedia

  • obfuscation — noun see obfuscate …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • obfuscation — See obfuscate. * * * …   Universalium

  • obfuscation — 1. A rendering dark or obscure. 2. A deliberate attempt to confuse or to prevent understanding. [L. ob fusco, pp. atus, to darken, fr. fuscus, dark, tawny] …   Medical dictionary

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