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

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 the Greek philosopher 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 17th century; 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
Recent Examples on the Web Tocqueville invited readers to join him in thinking aristocratically about their democracy, standing apart from it in their minds, translating its phrases about equality and popular sovereignty into something more subtle and esoteric. Jedediah Britton-purdy, The New Republic, 22 Apr. 2022 The constitutional questions are, of course, esoteric at the moment. Tax Notes Staff, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2022 Over the past decade, the conversation has eased its way from academic and esoteric circles and onto social media and wellness platforms. Los Angeles Times, 18 Feb. 2022 The titles of some concert tours can be a bit esoteric. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 15 Mar. 2022 The details on the invite were characteristically esoteric: Was the designer planning a runway presentation? Chioma Nnadi, Vogue, 17 Feb. 2022 At a moment when many Americans are facing rising prices for basic goods and gasoline and are exhausted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis seems distant and esoteric. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 15 Feb. 2022 Comics are ordinarily not the easiest market to crack because of the huge amount of esoteric knowledge necessary to identify what makes certain books collectible, but all bets are off if everything is going up in value in huge chunks. Rob Salkowitz, Forbes, 23 June 2021 Deposit options range from online banking and direct deposit to more esoteric options like PayPal, Cash at Cage, and various other online payment systems. Xl Media, cleveland, 13 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of esoteric was circa 1660

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esophagus

esoteric

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Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Esoteric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esoteric. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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