Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


Offensive to recognized standards of decency.

The term obscene is applied to written, verbal, or visual works or conduct that treat sex in an objectionable or lewd or lascivious manner. Although the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression, such constitutional protection is not extended to obscene works. To determine whether a work is obscene, the trier of fact applies the three-pronged guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court in miller v. california, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S. Ct. 2607, 37 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1973):

(a) whether the "average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work depicting or describing sexual conduct when taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest…, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.


Freedom of Speech; Pornography.


adj., adv. a highly subjective reference to material or acts which display or describe sexual activity in an obviously disgusting manner, appealing only to "prurient interest," with no legitimate artistic, literary or scientific purpose. Pictures, writings, film or public acts which are found to be obscene are not protected by the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. However, "one person's obscenity is another person's art," or "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." (See: pornography)


adjective bawdy, broad, debauched, foul, immodest, immoral, impure, indecent, indelicate, inquinatus, lascivious, lecherous, lewd, libidinous, licentious, lubricous, lurid, lustful, obscenus, offensive, offensive to decency, offensive to modesty, patently offensive, pornographic, profligate, ribald, risque, salacious, scabrous, sensual, sexy, shameful, shameless, spicy, tending to excite lustful desires, turpis, unchaste, unwholesome, vile, vulgar, wanton
See also: depraved, lascivious, lewd, licentious, objectionable, prurient, repulsive, salacious, scurrilous, suggestive


References in classic literature ?
What would be base, or even obscene, to the obscene, becomes illustrious, spoken in a new connexion of thought.
It was the largest house in the village, ambitiously ornamented with fancy-plaited mats and king-posts carved into obscene and monstrous forms half-human and half-animal.
So no one vexed him as he trotted through the winding pathways between the many houses and past the obscene kingposts of totemic heraldry, where the forms of men, carved from single tree trunks, were seated in the gaping jaws of carved sharks.
They lost their tempers easily and called one another names, while oaths and obscene allusions were frequent on their lips.
They danced about it with gestures grotesque and attitudes obscene and indescribable.
They seized one another by the garments, the hair, the beard--fought like animals, cursed, shouted, called one another opprobrious and obscene names.
Some, covered with obscene totemic figures and designs, were carved from solid tree trunks forty or fifty feet in length.
Clever and powerful, the poem is still more disgusting--grossly obscene, pitifully rancorous against scores of insignificant creatures, and no less violent against some of the ablest men of the time, at whom Pope happened to have taken offense.
I hesitate to say these things, but it is not because of the subject -- I care not how obscene my words are -- but because I cannot speak of them without betraying my impurity.
And he envied also the miserable sallow, thin-faced loafers blinking their obscene eyes and rubbing their greasy shoulders against the door-jambs of the Black Horse pub, because they were too far gone to feel their degradation.
As he looked around at the inhuman landscape of trees, with taunting and almost obscene outlines, he could almost fancy he was Dante, and the priest with the rivulet of a voice was, indeed, a Virgil leading him through a land of eternal sins.
As to that hairy and obscene brute" (in such terms did Mr.