Definition of arcane in English:


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  • Understood by few; mysterious or secret.

    ‘modern math and its arcane notation’
    • ‘The compact libretto used less of the flowery, arcane language that once had seemed a requisite of high style.’
    • ‘This is not a task to be undertaken lightly: the language is convoluted and arcane.’
    • ‘Here at least, the lyrics are quite clear and not concealed beneath some arcane reference.’
    • ‘It may seem an arcane issue to go to war over, but the unions are worried that they are losing an increasing number of workers to the private sector.’
    • ‘Civil servants, ministers and the pensions industry agonised over how to interest the public in this arcane subject.’
    • ‘Modern conflict may be too complex for arcane forms of protest.’
    • ‘Eventually, just two competitors stand against each other until one is able to spell some arcane word that the other cannot.’
    • ‘In a busy schedule where usually the legislation is very arcane, it can take years, if ever, for necessary change to occur.’
    • ‘But in the arcane world of Commonwealth Games eligibility, nothing is simple.’
    • ‘At one point an arcane discussion about the future of cursive handwriting starts up.’
    • ‘Records were denied airplay for the most arcane reasons imaginable.’
    • ‘Longhi's metaphors are sometimes arcane, but they can also be familiar.’
    • ‘The play has inconsistencies of tone, and like all Shakespearean comedy, its jokes are archaic and arcane.’
    • ‘Can television handle philosophy, which is popularly seen as either arcane or impossibly difficult?’
    • ‘I could find a mentor and follow them around, learning the arcane and mystical art of pointing.’
    • ‘If the dos and don'ts of tipping are so arcane, why is it so prevalent?’
    • ‘In many parts of the globe disputes over history are often not arcane or academic disagreements.’
    • ‘Einstein proceeds to describe with arcane mathematics and symbols his theory of relativity.’
    • ‘This arcane practice has to come to an end if investors are to have faith in equities in the long term.’
    • ‘Under the arcane rules of the council, this has to be debated at an Executive Committee meeting.’
    mysterious, secret, hidden, concealed, covert, clandestine, enigmatic, dark
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/ärˈkān/ /ɑrˈkeɪn/


Mid 16th century from Latin arcanus, from arcere ‘to shut up’, from arca ‘chest’.