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 formses·o·ter·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·es·o·ter·ic, adjectivenon·es·o·ter·i·cal·ly, adverbun·es·o·ter·ic, adjective
Can be confusedesoteric exoteric

Synonyms for esoteric Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for esoteric

Contemporary Examples of esoteric

Historical Examples of esoteric

  • He was again conscious of that esoteric disturbance in his temples.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The design of this cave-like aperture should betray its esoteric meaning.

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

  • A key to some great and deep occult teachings, and esoteric mysteries.

    The Human Aura

    Swami Panchadasi

  • Instruct him in the meaning of the Vedas,Reveal to him their esoteric sense.V.

    The Buddha

    Paul Carus

British Dictionary definitions for esoteric



restricted to or intended for an enlightened or initiated minority, esp because of abstruseness or obscurityan esoteric cult Compare exoteric
difficult to understand; abstrusean esoteric statement
not openly admitted; privateesoteric aims
Derived Formsesoterically, adverbesotericism, noun

Word Origin for esoteric

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

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