rar·e·fied | \ˈrer-ə-ˌfīd \
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

Those rarefied club grounds, as photographer David Abrahams reveals with his attentive lens, become a meeting place for the young and the old, the professional the the amateur, and the tourist and the local. David Abrahams, Vogue, "At a Wimbledon Full of Unprecedented Twists and Turns, Scenes From On and Off the Court," 13 July 2018 There’s nothing dry or rarefied about those — or the five (excellent) watercolors by his mother. Mark Feeney, BostonGlobe.com, "A different lens for Winslow Homer," 28 June 2018 Some Bay Area residents who cashed out are looking for homes in rarefied price ranges. Tony Bizjak, sacbee, "Bay Area residents are inundating Sacramento new home websites. Is a coastal wave coming?," 18 June 2018 On display Wednesday at Roland Garros was a picture of growth, of the impressiveness that comes when people figure out things, including things as fraught and tricky as rarefied athletic competition. Chuck Culpepper, chicagotribune.com, "Garbine Muguruza takes nothing for granted in rout of Maria Sharapova at French Open," 6 June 2018 Mostly these just further inflamed mucous membranes already unhappy with the rarefied air, although someone was running something that evidently came in Tropical Punch flavor. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "7:57:148—Volkswagen makes racing history with record-breaking electric race car," 29 June 2018 All three men belong to a rarefied group of opera enthusiasts from central Italy called Il Club dei 27. James Barron, New York Times, "‘Viva Verdi,’ Say Fans With Very Verdian Names," 22 Apr. 2018 Certainly, the fans of Davis occupy a more rarefied space in the American imaginary than those of any Soundcloud rapper. Danielle Jackson, Longreads, "On Mourning, Learning a More Sober Fandom, and Letting Go," 28 June 2018 But—as Garrett Pell, Jonathan Martin, J. D. Greear, hundreds of alumni at Liberty University, and thousands of women of ChurchToo suggest—that rarefied and uncomfortable niche may not suit all Christians. Virginia Heffernan, WIRED, "ChurchToo and Mike Pence’s Crisis of Faith," 21 June 2018

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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Statistics for rarefied

Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for rarefied

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

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English Language Learners Definition of rarefied

: understood by only a small group of people : only for people who know about a particular thing

of air : not having much oxygen because of being high up in the atmosphere

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lying above or upon

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