View synonyms for esoteric


[ es-uh-ter-ik ]


  1. understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite:

    poetry full of esoteric allusions.

    Synonyms: enigmatic, cryptic, arcane, abstruse

  2. belonging to the select few.
  3. private; secret; confidential.
  4. (of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group:

    the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras.

  5. Computers. (of programming or a programming language) designed to test or explore an unusual programming concept, regardless of its usefulness.


/ ˌɛsəʊˈtɛrɪk /


  1. restricted to or intended for an enlightened or initiated minority, esp because of abstruseness or obscurity Compare exoteric

    an esoteric cult

  2. difficult to understand; abstruse

    an esoteric statement

  3. not openly admitted; private

    esoteric aims

“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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Derived Forms

  • ˌesoˈterically, adverb
  • ˌesoˈteriˌcism, noun
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Other Words From

  • es·o·ter·i·cal·ly adverb
  • non·es·o·ter·ic adjective
  • non·es·o·ter·i·cal·ly adverb
  • un·es·o·ter·ic adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of esoteric1

First recorded in 1645–55; from Greek esōterikós “inner,” equivalent to esṓter(os) “inner” + -ikos -ic
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Word History and Origins

Origin of esoteric1

C17: from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō inner
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Example Sentences

It may sound like an esoteric problem, but a rapidly-spinning litter beneath a helicopter with a 74-year-old evacuee in it made news in 2019 in a video that will make you gasp.

Zokinvy builds on decades of research on many aspects of the lamin A protein, including the “seemingly esoteric chemical modification” that forms progerin, he says.

He then decided he’d had enough of eking out small advances in esoteric areas of physics, and he got ready to begin a postdoc at Princeton University in the more wide-open field of neuroscience.

Which includes what seem to me like fairly esoteric ways of getting STDs such as, for example, mosquito bites.

From Ozy

At the same time, the book delves deep into gritty physics details, thoroughly explaining important concepts like the cosmic microwave background — the oldest light in the universe — and tackling esoteric topics in theoretical physics.

Ted is a quirky guy that loves esoteric topics like Teddy Roosevelt trivia and the history of belts.

There is a pill in Tibetan Buddhism that contains a lot of esoteric ingredients, some of which are bodily substances.

He noted that some esoteric historians call them “Palestinians.”

Suddenly you can hold forth about leading and kerning and other esoteric aspects of typesetting.

In the old days it was not uncommon for the admissions officer to pose some esoteric—make that wacko—question.

His esoteric project was the original project of Christopher Columbus, extended and modified.

I think that sort of thing appeals especially to me because my own design isn't in the least esoteric.

Petuléngro, farrier, the esoteric Romany name of the Smith family.

Yet it is known that we have several branches of these same Esoteric Masonic Lodges carrying on their deadly work in our midst.

This was the origin of the rites more public, yet certainly esoteric, that he at last found himself able to establish.


Related Words

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More About Esoteric

What does esoteric mean?

Esoteric most commonly means obscure and only understood or intended to be understood by a small number of people with special (and perhaps secret) knowledge.

It’s often used to describe knowledge that’s only intended to be revealed to people who have been initiated into a certain group. The word is often associated with mysticism and the occult.

Such knowledge can be collectively referred to as esoterica, which can also refer collectively to books and other works that contain such topics.

Example: To the uninitiated, this kind of esoteric knowledge is impenetrably arcane.

Where does esoteric come from?

The first records of the word esoteric come from the mid-1600s. It comes from the Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, meaning “inner.”

Esoteric information is that which can only be understood by an inner circle of people, such as those with in-depth knowledge of an obscure subject. When you come across a piece of esoteric writing, it’s often difficult to understand what any of it means, unless you happen to have the esoteric knowledge needed to comprehend it.

The word exoteric means the opposite—commonplace or suitable for the general public. Ironically, it’s much less commonly known and used than the word esoteric.

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What are some other forms related to esoteric?

What are some synonyms for esoteric?

What are some words that share a root or word element with esoteric

What are some words that often get used in discussing esoteric?

How is esoteric used in real life?

The word esoteric is often used in discussion of mystical and occult topics, especially obscure writings about them, but it can be applied to any obscure topic that’s only understood by a select few.



Try using esoteric!

Is esoteric used correctly in the following sentence?

My local independent bookstore has an impressive collection of esoteric works—there’s some really far-out stuff in there!