her·​met·​ic | \ (ˌ)hər-ˈme-tik How to pronounce hermetic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly hermetical \ (ˌ)hər-​ˈme-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce hermetical (audio) \

Definition of hermetic

1 often capitalized

a : of or relating to the mystical and alchemical writings or teachings arising in the first three centuries a.d. and attributed to Hermes Trismegistus
b : relating to or characterized by subjects that are mysterious and difficult to understand : relating to or characterized by occultism or abstruseness : recondite a hermetic discussion

2 [ from the belief that Hermes Trismegistus invented a magic seal to keep vessels airtight ]

a : airtight hermetic seal
b : impervious to external influence trapped inside the hermetic military machine— Jack Newfield
c : recluse, solitary leads a hermetic life

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Synonyms & Antonyms for hermetic


abstruse, arcane, deep, esoteric, profound, recondite


shallow, superficial

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Hermetic Has Origins in Greek Mythology

Hermetic derives from Greek via the Medieval Latin word hermeticus. When it first entered English in the early 17th century, hermetic was associated with writings attributed to Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom. Thoth, whom the Greeks called Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-great Hermes"), was believed to be the author of a number of mystical, philosophical, and alchemistic works. The obscure subject matter of these works may have made them difficult to wade through, for soon English speakers were also applying hermetic to things that were beyond ordinary human comprehension. Additionally, Hermes Trismegistus was said to have invented a magic seal that could keep vessels airtight. Hermetic thus came to mean "airtight," both literally and figuratively. These days, it can also sometimes mean "solitary."

Examples of hermetic in a Sentence

wrote hermetic poetry whose sole intended readership was himself

Recent Examples on the Web

There are plenty of pleasures within this hermetic environment, though. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘A Strange Loop’ Is a Self-Portrait in a Hall of Mirrors," 17 June 2019 The scene is made all the more powerful because, in the hermetic universe of Big Little Lies, children are often, precisely because of their childishness, privy to an intuitive kind of wisdom. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "‘Giving You Salt’: The Most Powerful Moment on Big Little Lies So Far," 17 June 2019 Talbot’s storytelling approach is a little too hermetic and abstract, and Montgomery is an inscrutable character for much of the movie, played by Majors as a gentle giant who’s been holding in profound insights. David Sims, The Atlantic, "A Painterly Mood Piece About a Changing City," 10 June 2019 But from them a picture of the hermetic Siglo XXI emerges. Washington Post, "Overcrowding, abuse seen at Mexico migrant detention center," 17 June 2019 The third episode focuses more on Kat, whose relationship to the internet is legitimately complicated, evolving between hermetic terror and righteous exhibitionism. Darren Franich, EW.com, "HBO's teen shock-soap Euphoria is sweeter than you think: EW review," 14 June 2019 North Korea is so hermetic that foreign intelligence agencies were not sure Mr. Kim was heir apparent until a few years before the death of his secretive and dour father. Choe Sang-hun, New York Times, "North Korean Leader, Known for His Bluster, Reveals Diplomatic Skills," 7 Mar. 2018 As president of the Korean friendship association, Mr. Quennedey has traveled to the hermetic nation multiple times. Matthew Dalton, WSJ, "French Civil Servant Accused of Spying for North Korea Is Charged," 29 Nov. 2018 The polarization of politics over the past two decades stems directly from this increasingly hermetic view of the world. Daniel Mendelsohn, Town & Country, "Is This the End of Civility As We Know It?," 29 June 2016

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

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hermetic

Medieval Latin hermeticus, from Hermet-, Hermes Trismegistus

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for hermetic

The first known use of hermetic was in 1605

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More Definitions for hermetic



English Language Learners Definition of hermetic

formal : closed tightly so that no air can go in or out


her·​met·​ic | \ (ˌ)hər-ˈmet-ik How to pronounce hermetic (audio) \

Medical Definition of hermetic

: being airtight or impervious to air

Other Words from hermetic

hermetically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce hermetically (audio) \ adverb

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hermetic

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Spanish Central: Translation of hermetic

Nglish: Translation of hermetic for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hermetic

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


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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