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[es-uh-ter-ik] /ˌɛs əˈtɛr ɪk/
understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite:
poetry full of esoteric allusions.
belonging to the select few.
private; secret; confidential.
(of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group:
the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras.
Origin of esoteric
1645-55; < Greek esōterikós inner, equivalent to esṓter(os) inner + -ikos -ic
Related forms
esoterically, adverb
nonesoteric, adjective
nonesoterically, adverb
unesoteric, adjective
Can be confused
esoteric, exoteric.
1. abstruse, arcane, cryptic, enigmatic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for esoteric
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I should not be introducing these esoteric terms of high finance into innocent pastoral scenes.

    In Pastures Green Peter McArthur
  • The design of this cave-like aperture should betray its esoteric meaning.

  • He was never, and never wished to be, in the least esoteric; his object was to be understood by all.

    Thomas Moore Stephen Gwynn
  • There might be an esoteric book for the individual's own account of himself.

  • Is there something occult and esoteric about Tangrams, that Pg 45it is so difficult to lift the veil?

    Amusements in Mathematics Henry Ernest Dudeney
British Dictionary definitions for esoteric


restricted to or intended for an enlightened or initiated minority, esp because of abstruseness or obscurity: an esoteric cult Compare exoteric
difficult to understand; abstruse: an esoteric statement
not openly admitted; private: esoteric aims
Derived Forms
esoterically, adverb
esotericism, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō inner
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for esoteric

1650s, from Greek esoterikos "belonging to an inner circle," from esotero "more within," comparative adverb of eso "within," related to eis "into," en "in" (see en- (2)).

In English, originally of Pythagorean doctrines. According to Lucian, the division of teachings into exoteric and esoteric originated with Aristotle.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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