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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Did You Know?

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 In the wake of a year that forced us to become acquainted with our interiors more intimately than ever before, an exhibition that sees domestic space as a rarefied tableau could be a risky, if not alienating, proposition. Sean Santiago, ELLE Decor, "In New York, an Art Deco Landmark Hosts an Adventurous Show of Art and Furniture," 19 Feb. 2021 As suggested by the old black-and-white Blackglama fur ads, featuring Lena Horne, Diana Vreeland and Cher, among others, legends are people who have soared beyond fame or celebrity into a more rarefied, inaccessible stratosphere. New York Times, "Shifting the Focus From Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death to Her Brilliant Life," 27 Oct. 2020 Mond came within a committee’s long debate, too, of leading the Aggies into even more rarefied air for the program than having a five-year starter running the show: competing for a national championship. ExpressNews.com, "Kellen Mond ready for final chapter of historic career at Texas A&M," 31 Dec. 2020 In other words, the harm from abandoning Arecibo could reach well beyond the rarefied realm of astronomy. Robin George Andrews, Scientific American, "Arecibo’s Collapse Sends Dire Warning to Other Aging Observatories," 11 Dec. 2020 Up in the rarefied aerie of the 102nd floor observatory, new floor-to-ceiling windows reveal the panorama of the possibilities below. James Panero, WSJ, "An Iconic Beacon Shines Anew," 11 Dec. 2020 That’s the rarefied level Mahomes seems to be taking the Chiefs if this excellence continues. Dave Hyde, sun-sentinel.com, "Hyde: Only Dan Marino understands what Patrick Mahomes is going through | Commentary," 10 Dec. 2020 Kipchoge, who will race for the first time since his Vienna triumph at the London Marathon on Sunday, has emerged as one of the most rarefied figures in sports. Jonathan W. Rosen, New York Times, "Eliud Kipchoge Emerges as the Philosopher-King of Running," 2 Oct. 2020 Those other protagonists, of course, were men, and within even the remarkable, rarefied field of space travel, Winocour subtly pinpoints an all-too-unremarkable double standard. Justin Chang Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Eva Green is at her best in the deeply stirring astronaut drama ‘Proxima’," 5 Nov. 2020

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.

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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

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rarefied.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rarefied. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for rarefied



English Language Learners Definition of rarefied

often disapproving : understood by only a small group of people : only for people who know about a particular thing
technical, of air : not having much oxygen because of being high up in the atmosphere

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