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From Middle English mysterie, from Anglo-Norman misterie (Old French mistere), from Latin mysterium, from Ancient Greek μυστήριον (mustḗrion, a mystery, a secret, a secret rite), from μύστης (mústēs, initiated one), from μυέω (muéō, I initiate), from μύω (múō, I shut). Displaced native Old English ġerȳne.


  • enPR: mĭsʹtərē, mĭsʹtrē, IPA(key): /ˈmɪstəɹi/, /ˈmɪstɹi/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: mys‧te‧ry, myst‧ery


mystery (countable and uncountable, plural mysteries)

  1. Something secret or unexplainable; an unknown. [From XIV century.]
    The truth behind the events remains a mystery.
    • 1927, F. E. Penny, chapter 4, in Pulling the Strings:
      The case was that of a murder. It had an element of mystery about it, however, which was puzzling the authorities. A turban and loincloth soaked in blood had been found; also a staff.
  2. Someone or something with an obscure or puzzling nature.
    That man is a mystery.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 5, in The Hocussing of Cigarette[1]:
      Then I had a good think on the subject of the hocussing of Cigarette, and I was reluctantly bound to admit that once again the man in the corner had found the only possible solution to the mystery.
  3. (obsolete) A secret or mystical meaning. [From XIV century.]
    • 1567, Matteo Bandello, Certain Tragical Discourses of Bandello, tr. Geffraie Fenton:
      ...and, not knowing the meaning or misterie of her pollicie, forgat no termes of reproche or rigorous rebuke against his chast doughter.
  4. A religious truth not understandable by the application of human reason alone (without divine aid). [From XIV century.]
    • 1744 (first printed), Jonathan Swift, A Sermon on the Trinity
      If God should please to reveal unto us this great mystery of the Trinity, or some other mysteries in our holy religion, we should not be able to understand them, unless he would bestow on us some new faculties of the mind.
  5. (archaic outside Eastern Orthodoxy) A sacrament. [From XV century.]
    • 1809, Sir Robert Ker Porter, Travelling Sketches in Russia and Sweden: During the Years 1805, 1806, 1807, 1808:
      There are seven mysteries, or sacraments, in the Greek church, viz. baptism, the chrism (a rite peculiar to this church), the eucharist, confession, ordination, marriage, and the holy oil.
  6. (chiefly in the plural) A secret religious celebration, admission to which was usually through initiation. [From XV century.]
    the Eleusinian mysteries
    the Mysteries of Mithras
    • 1899 Feb, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, page 196:
      There’s no initiation either into such mysteries.
  7. (Catholicism) A particular event or series of events in the life of Christ. [From XVII century.]
    The second decade of the Rosary concerns the Sorrowful mysteries, such as the crucifixion and the crowning with thorns.
  8. A craft, art or trade; specifically a guild of craftsmen.[1]


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


Middle EnglishEdit

Etymology 1Edit

From Anglo-Norman misterie.



  1. Alternative form of mysterie (mystery)

Etymology 2Edit

From Old French mistere.



  1. Alternative form of mysterie (duty)