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esoteric

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adjective es·o·ter·ic \ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik, -ˈte-rik\

Simple Definition of esoteric

  • : only taught to or understood by members of a special group : hard to understand

  • : limited to a small number of people

Full Definition of esoteric

  1. 1 a :  designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone <a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo> b :  requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group <esoteric terminology>; broadly :  difficult to understand <esoteric subjects>

  2. 2 a :  limited to a small circle <engaging in esoteric pursuits> b :  private, confidential <an esoteric purpose>

  3. 3 :  of special, rare, or unusual interest <esoteric building materials>

es·o·ter·i·cal·ly play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of esoteric

  1. A kahuna is a master of Hawaiian esoteric practices. Recently, Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman engaged a kahuna to bless their house. … —Alec Wilkinson, New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2002

  2. … he listens to a group of Malaysians playing reedy, plangent music on some esoteric kind of wind instrument. —Penelope Lively, City of the Mind, 1991

  3. There was a new mall, an excellent bookstore with esoteric literary and policy journals, some restaurants with cosmopolitan menus, and engaging real estate advertisements. —Robert D. Kaplan, An Empire Wilderness, 1988

  4. <metaphysics is such an esoteric subject that most people are content to leave it to the philosophers>

  5. <must have had some esoteric motive for leaving his art collection to a museum halfway around the globe>



Origin of esoteric

Late Latin esotericus, from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of eisō, esō within, from eis into; akin to Greek en in — more at in


First Known Use: circa 1660



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