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 The more rarefied end of the market experienced a similar boost. Carlton Reid, Forbes, "£1 Billion In Additional Bicycle Sales Generated In U.K. Cycling During Pandemic, Reveals Industry Report," 21 Apr. 2021 Now, with two recent papers, Michael Filaseta of the University of South Carolina has carried the idea further, coming up with an even more rarefied class of digitally delicate prime numbers. Quanta Magazine, "Mathematicians Find a New Class of Digitally Delicate Primes," 30 Mar. 2021 Something like sixty miles up, there is a very rarefied gas charged with electricity and without it long-distance radio transmission would have to go out of business. John Brady, Popular Mechanics, "Shooting at the Moon: The Pioneering Rocketry of Robert Goddard," 16 Mar. 2021 The best of the songs have a translucent quality, a rarefied lyricism. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Conjuring the Music of Proust’s Salons," 15 Mar. 2021 Essays in the book give a sense of Ms. Ess’s rarefied position in the space where philosophical inquiry meets the cool-kid avant-garde. New York Times, "Barbara Ess, 76, Dies; Artist Blurred Lines Between Life and Art," 9 Mar. 2021 This is to be sacrificed for program space that will be used for a few hours a week, and only during certain months of the year—and for a niche audience at that, performance art being one of the more rarefied pleasures of contemporary art. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, "The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden Redesign: Paving Paradise," 11 Mar. 2021 In describing a royal life that began as a fairy tale but quickly turned suffocating and cruel, Meghan’s blunt answers raised the combustible issues of race and privilege in the most rarefied echelon of British society. Mark Landler, New York Times, "‘I Just Didn’t Want to Be Alive Anymore’: Meghan Says Life as Royal Made Her Suicidal," 7 Mar. 2021 The three-Oscar group is far smaller and contains an even more rarefied subgroup that Frances McDormand and Tom Hanks could enter come April 25. Los Angeles Times, "Will Frances McDormand and Tom Hanks pull off this amazing Oscar feat?," 3 Mar. 2021

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

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rarefied.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rarefied. Accessed 7 May. 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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