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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for arcane



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of arcane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many of today’s bouquinistes are retirees living on pensions who are eccentric collectors of arcane literature and magazines, mostly purchased from estates and peoples’ homes. Liz Alderman, New York Times, "Along the Seine, Booksellers Try to Hold Off an Unhappy Ending," 7 Nov. 2020 Most analyses of current polls show that Trump’s only path to return to the White House runs through the arcane electoral college — and possible interventions by a Supreme Court now ideologically stacked in his favor. Washington Post, "As 2020 election nears, foreign interference matters less than a looming constitutional crisis," 27 Oct. 2020 Chin, a former professor, peppered his opinions with historical references to ancient Chinese dynasties and arcane tidbits from folk tales. Timothy Mclaughlin, The Atlantic, "The Democracy Activists Who Love Trump," 31 Oct. 2020 The case poses potentially complex questions for the conservative wing of the court, from arcane doctrines on standing and severability to broader philosophies around the role of the Supreme Court itself. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "Judging ‘Obamacare’: Justice Barrett’s first high-profile case," 29 Oct. 2020 If the election is close, the aftermath is likely to spawn controversies and lawsuits over some of the more arcane procedures of elections officials in battleground states. Ryan Teague Beckwith,, "All the 2020 Vocabulary You Should Know Before Election Day in America," 29 Oct. 2020 The case came down to some arcane technical issues. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: Elections Department has one week to add 18 new polling sites," 16 Oct. 2020 Like many serious collectors of arcane but precious objects, Smith could be irascible, mean, and single-minded to the point of psychopathy. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "Harry Smith’s Musical Catalogue of Human Experience," 28 Sep. 2020 The Senate’s arcane rules give an overwhelming procedural advantage to the Majority Leader. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, "Could the Coronavirus Stop Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Confirmation?," 5 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of arcane

1547, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for arcane

Latin arcanus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about arcane

Time Traveler for arcane

Time Traveler

The first known use of arcane was in 1547

See more words from the same year

Statistics for arcane

Last Updated

15 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Arcane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on arcane

What made you want to look up arcane? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a traditional thanksgiving dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!