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known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric:
She knew a lot about Sanskrit grammar and other arcane matters.
Contemporary Examples

Elections make sense; central-bank announcements replete with jargon, arcane policies, and acronyms do not stir souls.
Mario Draghi May Become the Man Who Saved Europe—and the World Zachary Karabell September 6, 2012

The Garden of Cyrus, with its arcane explorations of botany and geometry, may as well be an alchemical treatise or a grimoire.
Halloween Read: Thomas Browne’s Eerie Premonition of His Burial Stefan Beck October 29, 2012

Everything is way too arcane, now, for most folks to understand.
Can You Hear Goldman Laughing? Tunku Varadarajan July 15, 2010

Worse yet, observes Ailes, our 42nd president remains a hopeless a policy wonk, the more complex and arcane the issue the better.
Good Politicians Are Bad TV Michelle Cottle January 27, 2011

He peppers everyday discussion with arcane and morose tidbits of deathophelia.
The Craziest Religions Benyamin Cohen July 23, 2010

Historical Examples

arcane now admitted that they could not have got along half as well, if we had not gone ahead and looked out the land.
Death Valley in ’49 William Lewis Manly

arcane was much pleased and laughed heartily when he saw no one was hurt.
Death Valley in ’49 William Lewis Manly

The earth is tapped of its arcane energies, the very air yields to us its mysterious powers.
National Being (A.E.)George William Russell

We met Bennett and arcane’s teamsters, and as we expected they were already out of grub and no way to get anymore.
Death Valley in ’49 William Lewis Manly

arcane took a bucket of water back from camp and after drinking it and resting awhile the ox was driven down to the spring.
Death Valley in ’49 William Lewis Manly

requiring secret knowledge to be understood; mysterious; esoteric

1540s, from Latin arcanus “secret, hidden, private, concealed,” from arcere “close up, enclose, contain,” from arca “chest, box, place for safe-keeping,” from PIE *ark- “to hold, contain, guard” (cf. Greek arkos “defense,” arkein “to ward off;” Armenian argel “obstacle;” Lithuanian raktas “key,” rakinti “to shut, lock”).


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