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

There’s a rarefied air that only major celebrities, athletes, movie stars, live in. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "How Kanye West’s brand survives his controversies, explained by a crisis PR expert," 3 Oct. 2018 Be among the first to try Matilda, a white-hot, dark-lit restaurant from local legend Scott Pickett in rarefied South Yarra. Dan F. Stapleton, Condé Nast Traveler, "What to Do in Melbourne in October 2018," 26 Sep. 2018 But as luxury goods prices continue to rise, and the number of one-percenters who move the needle shrinks, those breathing less rarefied air might be astonished to learn just how thrilling the rides have become for VVIPs. Horacio Silva, Town & Country, "The Experience Wars: Inside the Furious Fight for the Affections (and Dollars) of the World's Biggest Spenders," 20 Sep. 2018 Art historians have known this for a while, of course, but the knowledge hasn't really moved beyond the confines of that rarefied world. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Those painted sculptures in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are true to history," 23 Oct. 2018 This season Les Reveries is in that rarefied pack, along with Ruh, Gu_de, and Martinez. Kerry Pieri, Harper's BAZAAR, "We've Been Dreaming of These Floral Dresses For Months," 5 Sep. 2018 At the top end are rarefied spaces reserved for airline elite. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Ways to Get Airport Lounge Access for Every Type of Traveler," 21 Aug. 2018 All three of you are in this rarefied space of navigating this wild industry as black girls. Janet Mock, Marie Claire, "Zendaya Isn't Taking Center Stage—She's Making Room," 6 Aug. 2018 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

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

4 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on rarefied

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rarefied

Nglish: Translation of rarefied for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rarefied for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rarefied

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to make faulty or ineffective

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