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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


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.