ar·​cane | \är-ˈkān \

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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Examples of arcane in a Sentence

That same year Paulson spotted another arcane market being inflated by clueless Wall Street pros: So-called CDOs, or collaterized debt obligations, were a fancy name for securities that gave investors claims not just on mortgages but also on other kinds of debt, such as monthly payments on cars. Investment banks such as Merrill Lynch got addicted to selling CDOs because they earned a 1% to 1.5% fee on the total amount of any deal. —“Books” P. 67, Spencer Ante, BUSINESS WEEK Issue No. 4158, December 7, 2009 Reading medical journals can be a real headache. Sure, the topics are important, but the demands of scientific accuracy make for dense, technical prose. The language is almost always an agony of arcane jargon and clunky grammar. Long, tangled sentences, heavy with terms like “multivariate analyses,” are assembled to make small points. Research methods are explained in exhaustive detail, while conclusions are larded with caveats and qualifiers that pretty much render them inconclusive. It’s the literary equivalent of wet cement. —“Health Matters” P. 20, David Noonan, NEWSWEEK Vol. 152 No. 19, November 10, 2008 Anti-ABA activists like Dawson contend that a successful ABA graduate has simply been taught to suppress his natural modes of learning about and interacting with the world—behaviors such as self-stimulation, or “stimming” (rocking, flapping, etc.) and obsessive interest in arcane topics, seemingly pointless actions to neurotypicals. —“Disorder or Identity?” P. NP, Juliette Guilbert, BRAIN, CHILD: THE MAGAZINE FOR THINKING MOTHERS, Winter 2008 Both books are collections of essays and cover much of the same ground; in fact, they share five of the same authors. And both are full of rather arcane discussion, some of it far better suited to an academic journal than a night table (unless you need a sleeping aid). —“Books” P. 138, James Laube, WINE SPECTATOR Vol. 32 No. 14, Dec. 31, 2007–Jan. 15, 2008 That’s understandable, since we’re used to significant events in sports coming with a sound track, with some operatic broadcaster bellowing a call he hopes will last for the ages or reciting an arcane statistic meant to convey the supposed magnitude of what we are seeing. (“Sammy Shortstop just broke the National League single-season home run record for lefthanded-hitting middle infielders born east of the Mississippi! Can you feel the magic?” —“Players” P. 19, Phil Taylor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Vol. 107 No. 11, September 17, 2007 Sullivan is no rosey-eyed optimist. He recognizes that in a country given to periodic pandemics of irrational exuberance—bull markets, high-tech bubbles, real estate booms, etc.—no wage slave is safe. Say, for example, you’ve dedicated your life to the study of medieval literature. What better guarantee of a hand-to-mouth existence, you think. Well, caveat mendicus, think again. Lurking out there could be some movie star whose aberrant interest in the arcane leads him/her to enamored of your area of expertise. Next thing you know you’ve been hired as a consultant on a film that turns out to b a new Lord of the Rings, robbing you of your obscurity and transforming your sackcloth into silks. The price of mendicancy, Sullivan reminds us, is eternal vigilance —“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” P. 27, Peter Quinn, COMMONWEAL Vol. CXXXIII No. 7, April 7, 2006 He had a reputation for being brilliant, controversial, passionate. I was struck by his uncanny ability to communicate arcane, complex economic policy and by his punk-rock instinct to question the status quo. He set out to turn upside down the conventional economic wisdom that nothing could be done about poor countries sinking under the burden of old debts. —“The People’s Economist” P. 110, Bono, TIME Vol. 165 No. 16, April 18, 2005 Bob had no business building lobster neighborhoods. He’d been hired at the University of Maine as a marine ecologist in 1981 to study more arcane matters, like how long it took a sea urchin to eat a leaf of kelp. Bob had already made a name for himself piecing together an epic battle between coralline algae and vegetarian snails in the Caribbean, an evolutionary arms race that had transpired over millions of years. When Bob arrived in Maine he set out to examine the feeding patterns of herbivorous echinoderms and gastropod mollusks–the sort of blobs in shells that were known locally as urchins, snails, or limpets–but on his dives he was constantly distracted by lobsters. —“Part Three” P. 87, Trevor Corson, THE SECRET LIFE OF LOBSTER, Harper Collins Pub. 2004 Amazon–which is still glowing from its first profitable nonholiday quarter ever–has been working with a shadowy start-up called Groxis, a company that dabbles in curious, arcane techniques for graphically displaying search results. —"Technology" P. 49, Lev Grossman, TIME MAGAZINE, December 22, 2003
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Recent Examples on the Web

If city leaders focused on shifting a portion of those trips away from vehicles, the fight against arcane fuel-efficiency standards would be less critical. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Mayors are fighting the EPA’s fuel-efficiency rollback. What cities need are fewer cars.," 2 Aug. 2018 The Supreme Court in New Jersey interpreted an arcane provision of the New Jersey Constitution to essentially trump what was held in Trinity Lutheran. Nick Corasaniti, New York Times, "New Jersey Ruling Could Reignite Battle Over Church-State Separation," 24 Apr. 2018 In a change that sounds arcane but was hailed by members as an improvement in transparency, the leadership also agreed to record votes taken in subcommittees. Washington Post, "Virginia legislature shuns drama, gets underway with Republican leadership," 6 Mar. 2018 Buckley is rightly frustrated, as are many of us, by the arcane process currently required to undo a federal regulation. WSJ, "Justinian Didn’t Have to Deal With Congress," 25 Apr. 2018 In fact, its depiction of an arcane legislative maneuver has been hailed as one of the most accurate moments in movies about Congress. Abigail Simon, Time, "Here's What the 'Legally Blonde 2' Screenwriter Thinks of the House Using Her Plot Twist," 12 June 2018 Entrepreneurship, good work habit, good old-fashioned fun, shut down because of old, arcane, but very real laws for the kids like Autumn Thomasen. Fox News, "Gutfeld: The first 500 days of President Trump," 10 June 2018 Getting the backing of enough colleagues to actually take advantage of the arcane maneuver is almost unheard of. Sarah D. Wire,, "Rebellious Republicans move to force a House vote on 'Dreamers' despite leaders' objections," 9 May 2018 The software streamlines what technicians need to do, which previously involved typing in an arcane set of text commands for each networking device to configure and make changes to a network. New York Times, "Cisco Chief Executive’s New Mantra: Simplify Computer Networks," 10 July 2018

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

14 Nov 2018

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The first known use of arcane was in 1547

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something that serves to warn or remind

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