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Obfuscation is the concealment of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, intentionally ambiguous, and more difficult to interpret.



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 gyaru-moji and 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 ambiguity, adopt clarity", 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 linguist 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. 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

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[[Image:|32x28px]] Psychology portal


  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


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:





countable and uncountable; plural obfuscations

obfuscation (countable and uncountable; plural obfuscations)

  1. (uncountable) 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.
  2. (uncountable) Confusion, bewilderment, or a baffled state resulting from something obfuscated, or made more opaque and muddled with the intent to obscure information.
  3. (countable) A single instance of intentionally obscuring the meaning of something to make it more difficult to grasp.
    During the debate, the candidate sighed at his opponent's obfuscations.
  4. (computing, uncountable) The option to alter computer code, preserving its behavior but concealing its structure and intent.
    You need to turn on obfuscation for these classes.

Related terms

Simple English

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

Obfuscation means making something harder to understand, usually by complicating sentences needlessly. Weasel words are a form of obfuscation. Obfuscation is usually used when people either do not know what they are talking about or wish to hide their meaning.

Some people say that when doctors use difficult medical words to hide unpleasant things from patients, they are using obfuscation.

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