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From Ancient Greek ἐσωτερικός (esōterikós, belonging to an inner circle), from ἐσωτέρω (esōtérō, further inside), comparative of ἔσω (ésō, within), from ἐς (es), εἰς (eis, into) (esoteric originally referred to the secret teachings of Greek philosophers, versus public or exoteric ones).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌɛs.əʊˈtɛɹ.ɪk/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌɛs.əˈtɛɹ.ɪk/, /ˌɛs.oʊˈtɛɹ.ɪk/, enPR: ěsətěr'ĭk, ěsōtěr'ĭk
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛrɪk


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esoteric (comparative more esoteric, superlative most esoteric)

  1. intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest, or an enlightened inner circle.
    The writing in this manual is very esoteric; I need a degree in engineering just to understand it!
  2. Having to do with concepts that are highly theoretical and without obvious practical application; often with mystical or religious connotations.
  3. Confidential; private.
    an esoteric purpose
    an esoteric meeting


  • (understood only by a chosen few or an enlightened inner circle): arcane, recondite
  • (highly theoretical; not practical): cerebral
  • (confidential; private): secretive


Related terms[edit]


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See also[edit]


esoteric (plural esoterics)

  1. An esoteric doctrine or treatise; esoteric philosophy.
  2. One who believes, or is an initiate, in esoteric doctrines or rites.