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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Antonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Pesce's 2016 debut, The Eyes of My Mother, split audiences at Sundance with its horrifying premise and esoteric construction. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Nicolas Pesce on His R-Rated ‘Grudge’ Reboot: ‘There’s Something Heavy Metal About Making Horror’," 2 Jan. 2020 Farber’s teaching style emphasizes giving students a clear explanation of the Talmud’s esoteric and tortuous legal debates. Ben Sales, sun-sentinel.com, "Orthodox woman encourages Talmud study for women," 10 Dec. 2019 Curioporium, a curiosity shop focusing on occult and esoteric items, opened just last year. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "A early peek at Open Studio Hartford: Meet six of the artists and their artwork," 4 Nov. 2019 The many local, esoteric varieties of rum are starting to gain my attention lately and are certainly worth sampling. Juliet Pennington, BostonGlobe.com, "The VIP Lounge with singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards," 3 Sep. 2019 The technological advances make modern pitching sound esoteric to the casual fan. Andy Mccullough, latimes.com, "How baby boomer managers reach these dang millennial players," 8 June 2019 There’s also an important dagger outfitted with two different esoteric maps. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Rise of Skywalker," 21 Dec. 2019 Yet, for all the esoteric ideas attributed to him, the dancing lord likely has more earthy origins. Harish Pullanoor, Quartz India, "How the Indian icon Nataraja danced his way from ancient history to modern physics," 18 Dec. 2019 First, the financial sector itself: banks and insurance firms, along with more esoteric, less regulated players: hedge funds, private equity firms, exchange traded funds, and many more. Nicholas Shaxson, Time, "To Boost Prosperity, We Must Shrink the Financial Sector," 27 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about esoteric

Time Traveler for esoteric

Time Traveler

The first known use of esoteric was circa 1660

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about esoteric

Statistics for esoteric

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Esoteric.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esoterically. Accessed 26 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for esoteric

esoteric

adjective
How to pronounce esoteric (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on esoteric

What made you want to look up esoteric? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to express in a more acceptable way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!