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 Rutgers regularly shared that rarefied air back when Schiano was in charge. BostonGlobe.com, "That Schiano deal is gone.," 27 Nov. 2019 Instead, Wall Street ought to worry about what Warren would do to the rarefied world of private equity, particularly leveraged buyouts, or LBOs. Washington Post, "Wall Street Fears Elizabeth Warren for the Wrong Reasons," 5 Nov. 2019 Fans of the novel will be thrilled with how the intricate, rarefied worlds that Tartt created—including some of New York City’s most elite corners—are brought to life on screen. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "How The Goldfinch Recreated the Upper East Side on Screen—In Yonkers," 13 Sep. 2019 With their rarefied spaces and lofty missions, museums and other cultural institutions have not been known as tinderboxes of labor activism. New York Times, "Inside Hushed Museum Hallways, a Rumble Over Pay Grows Louder," 22 July 2019 But both are relatively rarefied compared with TIFF, which is far more logistically accessible and has become an undeniable bellwether. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "Want to know who will rule the upcoming awards season? Keep an eye on Toronto, the Oscar kingmaker.," 30 Aug. 2019 The 36-year-old Verlander joined Nolan Ryan (seven), Sandy Koufax (four) and Bob Feller, Cy Young and 1880s-era Larry Corcoran (three) in rarefied air on the no-hitter list. Ian Harrison, BostonGlobe.com, "Astros’ Justin Verlander throws another no-hitter," 1 Sep. 2019 One of his mentors was the Nobel laureate Paul Dirac, a legend in the rarefied world of theoretical physics. Vikram Zutshi, Quartz India, "Why do abusive men (and the women who support them) behave the way they do?," 19 July 2019 Baylor’s Rhule high on Brewer About 100 miles north of Royal-Memorial Stadium, there’s a junior quarterback who once occupied the same rarefied air as Texas’ Sam Ehlinger. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "Big 12: Is ‘Horns Down’ a penalty? ‘It depends’," 16 July 2019

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

4 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Rarefied.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rarefied. Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for rarefied


How to pronounce rarefied (audio)

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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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

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


to assert without proof or before proving

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