noun ar·ca·num \är-ˈkā-nəm\

Definition of arcanum



play \-nə\
  1. 1 :  mysterious or specialized knowledge, language, or information accessible or possessed only by the initiate —usually used in plural

  2. 2 :  elixir 1

arcanum was our Word of the Day on 09/11/2008. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

The word arcanum (pluralized as "arcana") came from Latin arcanus, meaning "secret," and entered English as the Dark Ages gave way to the Renaissance. It was often used in reference to the mysteries of the physical and spiritual worlds, subjects of heavy scrutiny and rethinking at the time. Alchemists were commonly said to be pursuing the arcana of nature, and they sought elixirs for changing base metals into gold, prolonging life, and curing disease. The frequent association of the word with the alchemists' elixirs influenced the use of "arcanum" for "elixir."

Origin and Etymology of arcanum

Latin, from neuter of arcanus secret, from arca chest — more at ark

First Known Use: 15th century

Seen and Heard

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a trip made at another's expense

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