I remember there was a word which describes a word which isn't normally used in an everyday conversation. Ironically, that word isn't normally used in an everyday conversation.

It's an adjective. In a sentence:

That word is ??????, you don't see it often.

I can distinctly remember that it is used to specifically describe words (and not general events, knowledge etc). A word which is rare/exquisite and isn't seen very often.

What is a word that describes that? I remember it was quite the highbrow word.

  • 3
    @tchrist, as I read it, OP here is asking for an obscure or rare word, not an obsolete one. That is, she wants an arcane word, not a archaic word. But we need some kind of threshold to understand just how rare is wanted.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:20
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    What has archaic to do with a "rare" word? Voting to reopen.
    – Kris
    Aug 11 '14 at 14:13
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    @FumbleFingers, those are all interesting in their own right, for sure. Unfortunately, they're also all nouns. OP specifically asked for a adjective. Also, though the word should be unusual, or rare, it probably shouldn't be vanishingly rare, because presumably OP has heard or read it in the course of everyday life (perhaps even more than once) as opposed to seeing it in a glossary of lost words. Anyway, this question is different from the other and should be re-opened in its own right.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 14:27
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    It's not my question nor my benchmark to set, but my instinct says it should be a word that people would use outside the context of lists of rare words. Something an educated/well-rounded/well-read people might come across, or even use, a few times a year, say.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 14:37
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    @FumbleFingers Dan is right. Sadly, it's none of the words you've listed in your comment, or on the linked answer. This question is not a duplicate of the linked question. Aug 11 '14 at 14:38

It's possible you just want



intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest. [Google D]

  • This seems plausible; by denotation, it doesn't apply soley to words, but in my experience, that's what it qualifies most often (of course the referent of "my" is a guy who hangs on on EL&U posting esoteric words...)
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:59
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    I won't criticise, though I'm soley tempted ;-) Aug 11 '14 at 13:07
  • Playing off esoteric, perhaps you could add rarified to your answer? "distant from the lives and concerns of ordinary people."
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 13:14
  • 1
    I don't think that 'rarified' collocates too well here. Aug 11 '14 at 14:22

I'm guessing rare, obscure, and arcane are not rare, obscure, or arcane enough for you, so how about

recondite: little known; abstruse.


recherché: rare, exotic, or obscure.

Which definition has the precise example, in the dictionary, of:

"a few linguistic terms are perhaps a bit recherché for the average readership"

If you want to say a rare word belongs to a vocabulary used only in technical contexts or by specific subcultures, you could say it is jargon, lingo, or argot.

Coming back to the need for a noun, you could always say:

My, that is a lyrical locution

  • 3
    Is the word you're looking for a noun meaning a rare word, or an adjective which means "rare", which can only be (or is typically) applied to words? For example, hapax is a noun meaning "a word which is only used once in a given text (or corpus)".
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:40
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    An adjective. "This word is ???, you don't see it often." Aug 11 '14 at 12:40
  • 1
    Ok, let me mull on my commute. In the meanwhile, you might find The Phronistery entertaining (or at least amusing!): phrontistery.info
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:41
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    @DanBron Just because you haven't heard it ... oh, yeah. That's the point. (So rare it's only listed in my private dictionary.)
    – bib
    Aug 11 '14 at 13:22
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    I don't know, I find antiquotidean fairly ambiloquous or even affictitious ;)
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 13:33

erudite - showing great knowledge or learning.

This carries no implication of being old-fashioned, which on rereading the question I may have incorrectly assumed. It certainly has the self-referential property (erudite being an erudite word).

anachronistic - belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists ... conspicuously old fashioned.

To my ear the word itself at least mildly anachronistic And ponderously, quinto-syllabically highbrow.

  • See @tchrist's comment on the question proper: my reading of the question is the OP wants a rare word, not an old (-fashioned) word, but of course I could be wrong.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:25
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    She emphasizes that it's highbrow. Your selections are in that respect quite delicious.
    – Bob Stein
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:27
  • She's a dude. And also, read my comment on Dan's answer. Aug 11 '14 at 12:38
  • 1
    Damn those gendered pronouns. And one-language (Spanish) educations that indoctrinate suffix perceptions.
    – Bob Stein
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:45
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    I'm following Dan Bron's lead of adding all my ideas to one answer. Is that the right way? Rather than generating many answers and letting each one fend for its own votes?
    – Bob Stein
    Aug 11 '14 at 12:55

I think you're probably looking for "uncommon".

  • Except that uncommon is not uncommon; this doesn't fit with the OP's recollection. Oct 3 '21 at 21:07

You may be referring to : sophisticated:

The term refers to something that is not common but exquisite. The adjective is also used with reference to terminology, Ngram.

  • having or appealing to those having worldly knowledge and refinement and savoir-faire; "sophisticated young socialites"; "a sophisticated audience"; "a sophisticated lifestyle"; "a sophisticated book"




Any of those from the English Thesaurus?

[ADJ] (Fewness): few, scant, scanty, thin, rare, scattered, thinly scattered, spotty, few and far between, exiguous, infrequent, hardly any, scarcely any, reduced

[ADJ] (Infrequency): infrequent, rare, few, scarce, uncommon, infrequent, unprecedented.

[ADJ] (Rarity): rare, subtile, thin, fine, tenuous, compressible, flimsy, slight, light, spongy, rarefied, unsubstantial.

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