ar·​cane är-ˈkān How to pronounce arcane (audio)
: known or knowable only to a few people : secret
arcane rites
an arcane ritual
broadly : mysterious, obscure
arcane explanations
arcane technical details

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Congressional Republicans plan to use an arcane rule to try to undermine President Biden’s mass student debt-cancellation program before the Supreme Court rules on its legality. Gabriel T. Rubin, WSJ, 24 Mar. 2023 Another interpretation, according to the defense, is that the two men, both unfamiliar with the arcane rules governing the Federal Election Commission (FEC), were using each other to achieve their own goals. Michael Ames, Rolling Stone, 12 Mar. 2023 And redistricting — a relatively arcane subject closely watched by political insiders every 10 years and seldom invoked by the average voter — was now the talk of the town. Los Angeles Times, 4 Feb. 2023 Blockchains might be arcane and perplexing, but listening to music on a rooftop is not. Andrew Weaver, Outside Online, 20 July 2022 For example, the Freedom Caucus wants to restore an arcane rule allowing any lawmaker to call for a vote on removing the speaker at any time from the House floor. Haris Alic, Fox News, 16 Nov. 2022 His game is not arcane, inconsistent, or flawed in any particular way. Corbin Smith, Rolling Stone, 6 Feb. 2023 The challenge was not only to raise awareness of what had been an arcane subject, but to take the lead with substantive action in pushing back against those who would weaponize Americans’ pension and investment dollars to advance a political agenda. Derek A. Kreifels, National Review, 2 Feb. 2023 Even the ins and outs of applying to graduate school are a bit arcane. Avery Hurt, Discover Magazine, 18 Apr. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'arcane.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin arcanus

First Known Use

1547, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of arcane was in 1547

Dictionary Entries Near arcane

Cite this Entry

“Arcane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on arcane

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