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From Middle French obliquité, from Latin obliquitas, from obliquus (oblique).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əˈblɪkwɪti/
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈblɪkwɪɾi/, /oʊˈblɪkwɪɾi/


obliquity (countable and uncountable, plural obliquities)

  1. The quality of being oblique in direction, deviating from the horizontal or vertical; or the angle created by such a deviation. [from 15th c.]
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, lines 766-769:
      The Planet Earth, so stedfast though she seem, / Insensibly three different Motions move? / Which else to several Sphears thou must ascribe, / Mov'd contrarie with thwart obliquities
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby Dick, chapter 9
      Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly oscillates in Jonah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all, though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it hung.
    • 1897, Henry James, What Maisie Knew:
      She wore glasses which, in humble reference to a divergent obliquity of vision, she called her straighteners, and a little ugly snuff-coloured dress trimmed with satin bands in the form of scallops and glazed with antiquity.
  2. (astronomy, by extension, of a planet) Axial tilt.
  3. Mental or moral deviation or perversity; immorality. [from 15th c.]
    • 1924, Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Chapter 2:
      Habitually living with the elements and knowing little more of the land than as a beach, or, rather, that portion of the terraqueous globe providentially set apart for dance-houses, doxies and tapsters, in short what sailors call a "fiddlers'-green," his simple nature remained unsophisticated by those moral obliquities which are not in every case incompatible with that manufacturable thing known as respectability.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 404:
      Stray's [friends], apt to keep more to the shadows, tended to be practitioners of obliquity—as it quite often came down to, varieties of pimp.
  4. The quality of being obscure, oftentimes willfully, sometimes as an exercise in euphemism. [from 17th c.]
    • 1879, Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, Chapter 25:
      That spiked my gun. I could not say anything. I was entirely out of verbal obliquities; to go further would be to lie, and that I would not do; so I simply sat still and suffered, -- sat mutely and resignedly there, and sizzled, -- for I was being slowly fried to death in my own blushes.