ar·​cane | \ är-ˈkān How to pronounce arcane (audio) \

Definition of arcane

: known or knowable only to a few people : secret arcane rites an arcane ritual broadly : mysterious, obscure arcane explanations arcane technical details

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Synonyms & Antonyms for arcane


abstruse, deep, esoteric, hermetic (also hermetical), profound, recondite


shallow, superficial

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Examples of arcane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

But the president has continued to ratchet up the pain, using arcane measures generally reserved to combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation to punish Chinese companies. New York Times, "Trump Mixes Economic and National Security, Plunging the U.S. Into Multiple Fights," 8 June 2019 Now the arcane Seaman’s Manslaughter Statute, passed in 1838 and amended in 1852, figures to play a leading role if prosecutors file criminal charges stemming from the tragedy. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "Charges in California boat fire may hinge on 1838 law. Here's why," 11 Sep. 2019 The financial world is buzzing with an arcane sounding issue—the inverted yield curve. Wired, "What Recession? Low Interest Rates Could Mean Tech-Fueled Growth," 4 Sep. 2019 Wielding them was like having an enchanted utility belt: Your arcane abilities were finite, preselected, and each good for one job. William Herkewitz, Popular Mechanics, "Why D&D Modernized Its Magic for a New Generation of Fantasy," 1 Sep. 2019 In April, Warren became the first major Democratic candidate to call for the arcane procedural mechanism to be scrapped. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Sanders and Warren Plot Their End Run Around the Senate," 13 Sep. 2019 In the House of Lords, the arcane ceremony got underway. Tara John, CNN, "UK Parliament is suspended amid scenes of chaos," 10 Sep. 2019 This week, on the first day after the summer recess, opposition members of Parliament used their own grasp of arcane procedure, with an instrument known as Standing Order 24, to seize control of the agenda. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "Boris Johnson’s Brexit Carnage," 6 Sep. 2019 Once an arcane part of fiscal policy, cesses are now playing an increasingly significant role in how the union government raises money. Shoaib Daniyal, Quartz India, "Various cesses levied by the Modi government are squeezing Indian state budgets," 23 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'arcane.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of arcane

1547, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for arcane

Latin arcanus

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Last Updated

17 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for arcane

The first known use of arcane was in 1547

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More from Merriam-Webster on arcane

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with arcane

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for arcane

Spanish Central: Translation of arcane

Nglish: Translation of arcane for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of arcane for Arabic Speakers

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