Definition of esoteric in English:



  • Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

    ‘esoteric philosophical debates’
    • ‘Butler's report will be full of esoteric recommendations about working practices inside government.’
    • ‘While much of the text would be too esoteric for all but the art-history scholar, it does raise broader questions.’
    • ‘His adored father was a more or less failed Swiss pastor, a melancholic man of esoteric interests.’
    • ‘Smell, our seemingly most primitive sense, is often linked to spiritual or esoteric ideas.’
    • ‘He is fond of pointing out how esoteric this debate is to the wider public.’
    • ‘He taught mathematics not as some esoteric mystery, but as practical common sense.’
    • ‘When so few people have been encouraged to learn trades, the special skills involved in them become esoteric.’
    • ‘Every illicit drug now has its own subculture, with its own esoteric knowledge, its own rituals and its own argot.’
    • ‘The trivia enthusiast in me thrilled to discover oodles of esoteric tidbits on every page - and not just about salt.’
    • ‘Gibson's comments on the use of non-standard or esoteric English are particularly wise.’
    • ‘It means that you live in one place, but exist in another esoteric, imaginary plane, unshackled by fact or memory.’
    • ‘Why did what was formerly seen as an esoteric cultural theory go from the margins of academia to the mainstream of public debate?’
    • ‘The poems show his erudition to be wide, his historical knowledge sometimes esoteric.’
    • ‘Now all such esoteric knowledge is regarded as suspect, as somehow unjust.’
    • ‘Well in fact that esoteric knowledge is quite an important theme in conspiracy theories.’
    • ‘This has led him to an interest in the esoteric world of art restoration.’
    • ‘Deep, hidden or esoteric meanings of the text are rejected in favour of its plain meaning.’
    • ‘According to the esoteric tradition humanity is not the pinnacle of evolution on this planet.’
    • ‘The Left makes incredibly esoteric distinctions based on the motives of the social planners doing the killing.’
    • ‘Although the text is more accessible, it also loses its mysterious and esoteric qualities.’
    abstruse, obscure, arcane, recherché, rarefied, recondite, abstract, difficult, hard, puzzling, perplexing, enigmatic, inscrutable, cryptic, delphic
    complex, complicated, involved, above one's head, over one's head, incomprehensible, opaque, unfathomable, impenetrable, mysterious, occult, little known, hidden, secret, private, mystic, magical, cabbalistic
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Mid 17th century: from Greek esōterikos, from esōterō, comparative of esō within, from es, eis into. Compare with exoteric.