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Alternative forms[edit]


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): /ˌiːs.əʊˈtɛɹ.ɪk/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌɛs.əˈtɛɹ.ɪk/, /ˌɛs.oʊˈtɛɹ.ɪk/, enPR: ěsətěr'ĭk, ěsōtěr'ĭk
  • (file)
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  • 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’d need a degree in engineering just to understand it!
    Synonyms: arcane, recondite
  2. Having to do with concepts that are highly theoretical and without obvious practical application; often with mystical or religious connotations.
    • 1975, Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift [Avon ed., 1976, p. 278]:
      When he spoke to me of esoteric mysteries I wanted to say to him,"Don't give me that spiritual hokum, friend!"
    Synonym: cerebral
  3. Confidential; private.
    an esoteric purpose
    an esoteric meeting
    Synonym: secretive


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esoteric (plural esoterics)

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