Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
June 17th, 2015
Episode 229 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 17, 2015 is: esoteric \es-uh-TAIR-ik\ adjective 1 a : designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group; broadly : difficult to understand 2 a : limited to a small circle b : private, confidential 3 : of special, rare, or unusual interest Examples: Some of the terms used in the book were so esoteric that I had to look them up in a special glossary that really should have been appended to the book itself. "The esoteric nature of most theories of art prevent them from being absorbed and understood by the art-going public, who on the whole have little interest in philosophy." Launt Thompson, Philosophy Now, June/July 2015 Did you know? The opposite of esoteric is exoteric, which means "suitable to be imparted to the public." According to one account, those who were deemed worthy to attend Aristotle's learned discussions were known as his "esoterics," his confidants, while those who merely attended his popular evening lectures were called his "exoterics." Since material that is geared toward a target audience is often not as easily comprehensible to outside observers, esoteric acquired an extended meaning of "difficult to understand." Both esoteric and exoteric started appearing in English in the mid-1600s; esoteric traces back to ancient Greek by way of the Late Latin esotericus. The Greek esōterikos is based on the comparative form of esō, which means "within."