Podcast arcane

Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahr-kayn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Mysterious, secret, known or understood only by initiates, those with special access to some knowledge.

Notes: This word is the adjective for arcanum (plural: arcana) "secret knowledge accessible only to members or initiates". This is the stuff of fraternal organizations like the Royal Arcanum, a venerable fraternal life insurance society. The adverb is arcanely and an arcanist is someone with secret information. So far the noun arcanity hasn't made the major dictionaries but it is floating around the Internet.

In Play: This is a good word for referring to rarities most people would not understand, such as arcane reading habits or, "Sarah's knowledge of arcane economic principles occasionally pays off." Play with it? Sure: "He is a man of such arcane knowledge that even he barely understands what he's thinking."

Word History: Today's word comes from the Latin adjective arcanus "shut up, closed" hence "secret". The adjective is based on arca "a chest, box, safe", a good place for secrets. Arca is also the origin of our word ark, as in the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the stones on which the Ten Commandments were carved. The Latin word may have been influenced by the old Hebrew word for "ark", aron, as in Aron Habrit "Ark of the Covenant". It is unrelated to arcade, which was derived from Latin arcus "arch".

Dr. Goodword,

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