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 esoterically (audio) , -​ˈte-​ri-​ \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for esoteric

Synonyms

abstruse, arcane, deep, hermetic (also hermetical), profound, recondite

Antonyms

shallow, superficial

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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

The outspoken Liselotte, like the tragic Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I of England, and known as the Winter Queen, was one of history’s esoteric fascinators who bewitched Karl: his erudition was a constant astonishment. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Remembers the Unparalleled Energy, Wicked Wit, and Insatiable Curiosity of Karl Lagerfeld," 20 Feb. 2019 The resulting album sounds like a New Age playground of sorts, at once futuristic and grounded in a sort of old-world mysticism, as the esoteric chants on the title track convey. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "The Argentinian Artist Whose Colorful Closet and Music Are Inspired by Postmodern Furniture," 24 Dec. 2018 In movies, most often adaptations, affluence and luxury have been a way for Hollywood to make something esoteric or niche appeal to more mainstream audiences. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Crazy Rich Asians’ crazy rich success could mean more stories about less crazy rich Asian-American people.," 21 Dec. 2018 Linux Power User Bundle $19 Linux is hands-down one of the most important and relied-upon operating systems in tech, and this bundle walks you through everything from its most fundamental features to its more advanced and esoteric elements. Popular Mechanics, "10 eLearning Bundles At Steep Black Friday Discounts," 22 Nov. 2018 Creativity is clearly the lifeblood of the Carpenzano clan: His sister Livia, also seen here, is an artist of the more esoteric persuasion. Vogue, "25 Ways to Gucci: Rome’s Creative Class," 29 Nov. 2018 Bertrand Guyon’s treatment of Man Ray’s works was elegant and inspired, not esoteric. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Our Very Favorite Moments From the Spring 2019 Collections," 10 Oct. 2018 The auction also includes more esoteric lots such as spare parts, rims, cars seats, an ax that was used to mark wood deemed of suitable quality for use on Bertone cars and a drafting table likely used by Mr. Gandini. Parminder Bahra, WSJ, "How to Own a Rare Piece of Automotive History," 14 Nov. 2018 The Druze, followers of an esoteric offshoot of Islam, have kept their own local militias in the area. Fox News, "Syrian forces press offensive despite IS threats to hostages," 31 July 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

4 Mar 2019

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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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