Printable Version
Pronunciation: e-sê-ter-ik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. That is known only by a small, exclusive group of insiders or "in" people. 2. Confined to a clique or small closed group of people.

Notes: This Good Word is the mother of a large, lovely family, beginning with the adverb, esoterically. The inclination to speak on esoteric subjects or use esoteric words is esoterism or esotericism, as you please. An interesting member of the family is esoterica "things esoteric", as someone who enjoys reading lexical esoterica, material that interests only a handful of logophiles and word nuts like, well, us.

In Play: Unless you are a member of the inner circle privy to the esoteric topics in question, those topics baffle us: "It is difficult to tell if Muybridge is speaking on esoteric topics we mere mortals cannot understand or whether he is babbling on about something he doesn't understand himself." Resisting the sheer beauty of esoterica is difficult if not impossible: "Rhoda Book is the author of a large body of esoterica on riparian life along the Zambezi River."

Word History: The emphasis on in in the definitions above is no coincidence. Today's Good Word is a transliteration of Greek esoterikos "inner", from esotero, the comparative of eso "(with)in". It referred to things that were "in" in the adjectival sense of in, as the "in" group or the "in" thing to do. The ultimate root here is PIE en "in", origin of our word in and similar words throughout the Indo-European languages. (Today we must show gratitude to the lovely Faye Beard, member of the inner circles of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, for passing on this lovely word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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