esoteric

adjective
es·o·ter·ic | \ ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik , -ˈte-rik \

Definition of esoteric 

1a : designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone a body of esoteric legal doctrine —B. N. Cardozo

b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group esoteric terminology broadly : difficult to understand esoteric subjects

2a : limited to a small circle engaging in esoteric pursuits

b : private, confidential an esoteric purpose

3 : of special, rare, or unusual interest esoteric building materials

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Other words from esoteric

esoterically \ˌe-sə-ˈter-i-k(ə-)lē, -ˈte-ri- \ adverb

What is the Opposite of esoteric?

The opposite of esoteric is exoteric, which means "suitable to be imparted to the public." According to one account, those who were deemed worthy to attend Aristotle's learned discussions were known as his "esoterics," his confidants, while those who merely attended his popular evening lectures were called his "exoterics." Since material that is geared toward a target audience is often not as easily comprehensible to outside observers, esoteric acquired an extended meaning of "difficult to understand." Both esoteric and exoteric started appearing in English in the mid-1600s; esoteric traces back to ancient Greek by way of the Late Latin esotericus. The Greek esōterikos is based on the comparative form of esō, which means "within."

Examples of esoteric in a Sentence

A kahuna is a master of Hawaiian esoteric practices. Recently, Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman engaged a kahuna to bless their house.  … —Alec Wilkinson, New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2002 … he listens to a group of Malaysians playing reedy, plangent music on some esoteric kind of wind instrument. —Penelope Lively, City of the Mind, 1991 There was a new mall, an excellent bookstore with esoteric literary and policy journals, some restaurants with cosmopolitan menus, and engaging real estate advertisements. —Robert D. Kaplan, An Empire Wilderness, 1988 metaphysics is such an esoteric subject that most people are content to leave it to the philosophers must have had some esoteric motive for leaving his art collection to a museum halfway around the globe
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Recent Examples on the Web

And considering that the West yields some of the country’s most sought-after delicacies, from seafood to cheese, why not pair this culinary bounty with wines from resident vintners producing intriguing sips from esoteric grapes? Sunset, "5 Tricky Food & Wine Pairings We’ve Mastered," 22 Jan. 2018 Unlike some wildlife research, which can be esoteric, Wielgus’s work by its nature has concrete, real-world implications. New York Times, "Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf Scientist?," 5 July 2018 The Return Doesn’t Earn Any Major Nominations The esoteric resurrection of Twin Peaks not only failed to get nominated for Best Limited Series. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2018 Emmy Nominations," 12 July 2018 Homs, like all of the cities recaptured by the government, now belongs mostly to Syria’s victorious minorities: Christians, Shias and Alawites (an esoteric offshoot of Shia Islam from which Mr Assad hails). The Economist, "How a victorious Bashar al-Assad is changing Syria," 28 June 2018 Consider exploring an alternative route home during your commute or incorporating an esoteric practice into your morning, such as pulling a tarot card each day over breakfast. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What May's Sagittarius Horoscope Means for You," 26 Apr. 2018 Being a Millennial witch means growing up in the modern age—social media and all—and using esoteric practices and magick to find connection to the seen and unseen. Andrea Alonso, Los Angeles Magazine, "Meet the L.A. Woman Demystifying Modern-Day Witchcraft," 10 Apr. 2018 That includes the more esoteric varieties like oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods and beech mushrooms that are frequently slapped with this label. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Dishonest menus: Diners, beware of 7 restaurant lies you may be swallowing right now," 13 June 2018 Beasley roots his art in real life, and Keogh, a painter, confines hers to esoteric discourse: art theory, art history, and poetry. Cate Mcquaid, BostonGlobe.com, "At the ICA, Kevin Beasley alchemizes dark histories," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'esoteric.' 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 esoteric

circa 1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for esoteric

Late Latin esotericus, from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of eisō, esō within, from eis into; akin to Greek en in — more at in

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Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for esoteric

The first known use of esoteric was circa 1660

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More Definitions for esoteric

esoteric

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of esoteric

: only taught to or understood by members of a special group : hard to understand

: limited to a small number of people

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