rar·​e·​fied | \ ˈrer-ə-ˌfīd How to pronounce rarefied (audio) \
variants: or less commonly rarified

Definition of rarefied

1 : being less dense
2 : of, relating to, or interesting to a select group : esoteric
3 : very high

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Rarefied was formed from the verb rarefy, which derives from a combination of the Latin rarus ("thin" or "rare") with facere ("to make") and has meant "to make thin" since the 14th century. In its original uses back in the 1500s, the adjective rarefied was on the lean side too; it meant "made less dense" (as in "the fog lifted and we could breathe more easily in the rarefied air"). By the 17th century, rarefy had gained the sense "to refine or purify," and over time rarefied followed suit.

Examples of rarefied in a Sentence

It's difficult to breathe in the rarefied air near the mountain's peak.
Recent Examples on the Web But on June 15 and 16, the legendary street will become one of the world’s most rarefied parking lots. Eric Twardzik, Robb Report, 16 June 2022 That timeless dream is now being profoundly recast to suit the tastes of an increasingly rarefied sliver of the population—at an unprecedented pace and scale. Antonia Hitchens, Town & Country, 8 June 2022 Recently, even in this rarefied world, some owners have started replacing gas engines with electric ones. New York Times, 7 May 2022 This represents a rarefied and high-priced market either of the very well-heeled, or those with vehicles paid for by their employers. Neil Winton, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2022 That gas grew denser in some places and more rarefied in others as the tug of gravity competed with cosmic expansion, and the densest regions eventually gave birth to luminous stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters. Ben Brubaker, Scientific American, 4 May 2022 Despite being acutely aware of the inequities in both eras, Benton found stepping into the rarefied world of the gala to be an inspiring full-circle moment. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, 4 May 2022 The same cannot be said for her dear friend Andy Warhol, an outsider who struggled to break into the artistic and social circles that Marisol reveled in before finding his own footing and ricocheting into rarefied art-history air. Grace Edquist, Vogue, 14 Apr. 2022 In this insightful and well written memoir, Stevens looks at his family but also tells his own impressive story of a life dedicated to advancing culture and working in Washington's most rarefied circles. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, 4 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rarefied.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of rarefied

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of rarefied was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Rarefied.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rarefied. Accessed 5 Jul. 2022.

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