Ironically, it's almost as if the etymology of the word obscenity was censored; there are conflicting accounts once we pass the Latin word obscenus. My personal favorite of the lot is that it could be from the Greek phrase ob skene, meaning "off stage", because some parts of Ancient Greek theatre was so obscene that it had to be implied that they took place away from the audience. If this is the case, ob would be from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction hepi, meaning "near", and skene would derive from a Semitic source meaning "dwelling". If not, another possible etymology would be that obscenus comes from the Latin phrase ob caenum, meaning "in front of filth". Ob, you'll notice, is different in this context; it was quite a multipurpose word in Latin and Greek. Caenum would be from Proto-Indo-European kweyn, meaning "soil". Those are just two possibilities, but they are the most likely.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.