esoteric

adjective
es·​o·​ter·​ic | \ ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik How to pronounce esoteric (audio) , -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 How to pronounce esoteric (audio) , -​ˈte-​ri-​ \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for esoteric

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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 Remaining Luminus funds are attracting money for clean-energy investments including Californian carbon allowances and more esoteric markets such as uranium, used to fuel nuclear power stations. Joe Wallace, WSJ, "Energy-Focused Hedge Fund Luminus Liquidates Some Assets," 29 Apr. 2021 Looking proud, like a doctor nailing an esoteric diagnosis. Ew Staff, EW.com, "Read the first three chapters of Kathy Wang's new spy thriller Impostor Syndrome," 27 Apr. 2021 As with his thinking on esoteric philosophy, material factors dominated his thinking on politics. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "England’s Most Underrated Political Philosopher," 23 Apr. 2021 Not bad for an esoteric technology developed by the enigmatic figure who created bitcoin. Ahiza Garcia, CNN, "Blockchain: What is it, and why does it matter?," 22 Apr. 2021 Renfro has some esoteric vinifera cuttings in the greenhouse, like Beba, a Spanish variety, but the Merlin, Alden and America grapes are non-vinifera species, native to these shores. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "How a tiny urban vineyard in San Francisco is trying to transform California wine," 20 Apr. 2021 Listening to Davis, Mackey began to notice esoteric systems of knowledge all around him. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "Nathaniel Mackey’s Long Song," 5 Apr. 2021 Also loitering was David Graeber, who would sometimes email the other Occupiers with strange, esoteric ideas. Ryann Liebenthal, The New Republic, "The Long Fight to Cancel Student Loans," 19 Apr. 2021 In the iconography of American militarism, in the esoteric cult of special forces, the black censor bar across the eyes confers an unmistakably dark prestige. Seth Harp, Rolling Stone, "THE FORT," 18 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for esoteric

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The first known use of esoteric was circa 1660

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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Esoteric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esoteric. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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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