‘Crystal Clear’: Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 4, 2023

Have you ever heard the expression' crystal clear'? If so, you might have wondered what it means. You're in the right place! In this article, we'll explore the meaning of this common idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you're just here to find out what it means, here's the short version:

  • When something is 'crystal clear,' it is either very clear visually or easy to understand.

What Does 'Crystal Clear' Mean?

People often say something is 'crystal clear;' it's a common expression with two possible meanings.

  • The first one is quite literal: it means something is very clear visually, as in you can see it well.
  • The other meaning is a little more figurative: it means that something someone has said is clear, as in it's easy to understand.

Either way, it suggests a high degree of clarity and precision, much like the transparency of a crystal. So imagine, for example, that you just assembled a piece of furniture, and your friend asks you how you got on with it.

You might say:

It was easy! The instructions were crystal clear, which really helped me get it done in record time.

'Crystal clear' is a compound adjective, meaning it's an adjective made up of two words. There's one rule you should be aware of when it comes to compound words: a compound word should be hyphenated if it precedes the noun it modifies and open if it follows it.

Let me use my earlier example to illustrate:

The instructions were crystal clear.
They provided crystal-clear instructions.

In the second sentence, the compound adjective 'crystal clear' precedes the noun' instructions,' which it modifies, so it needs a hyphen.

Where Does 'Crystal Clear' Come From?

The exact origin of the phrase is difficult to pinpoint, as idiomatic expressions and phrases often evolve organically over time. It's likely that the use of 'crystal clear' developed gradually as a way to describe something very clear because crystals, especially when well-formed and free of impurities, can be exceptionally clear and transparent.

It's been around since at least the 15th century, with one source citing its first use in the writing of John Lydgate, a medieval poet. However, I couldn't verify these claims.

You might be interested in knowing the origins of the word 'crystal.' As cited by Etymonline:

from Latin crystallus "crystal, ice," from Greek krystallos, from kryos "frost," from PIE root *kreus- "to begin to freeze, form a crust."

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it.

The instructions for assembling the furniture were crystal clear, making the process easy for everyone.

The lake was so calm that the reflection of the mountains on its surface was crystal clear.

After the meeting, the team had a crystal clear understanding of their goals and responsibilities.

The scientist presented the research findings in a way that was crystal clear to both experts and non-experts.

The audio quality of the recording was crystal clear, allowing every word to be heard without distortion.

Despite the complex topic, the professor's lecture was crystal clear, and the students grasped the concepts easily.

The witness provided a crystal clear account of the events, leaving no room for doubt or confusion.

The weather forecast predicted a crystal clear day, with no clouds in sight and plenty of sunshine.

The diamond's cut was so precise that it sparkled and appeared crystal clear in any light.

The author's writing style is known for its crystal clear prose, making the novel a pleasure to read.

Other Ways to Say 'Crystal Clear'

There are plenty of other ways to say something is well explained. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

Here are some of them:

  • clear as day
  • plain as the nose on your face
  • obvious
  • evident
  • plain and simple

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when something is 'crystal clear,' it means that it's either high quality in terms of the five senses or, quite simply, easy-to-understand communication.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for other idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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