Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Recondite

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is recondite. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Recondite is a formal word used to describe something that is difficult to understand or something that is not known by many people.

// Despite the A’s she’d been consistently earning, she was nervous that microbiology was too recondite a subject for her to master as she had the others.

// The candy has the perfect balance of sweet and tart, but what delights me most are the recondite facts printed inside the wrapper.

RECONDITE in Context

“[Essayist, Roger] Angell was so engaged in the world, knew so many things—could readily reference recondite scientific theory, old Polish dances, and obscure novels for boys—that even close friends found the prospect of his judgment a little scary.” — Nicholas Dawidoff, The Atlantic, 21 Nov. 2022

Did You Know?

Recondite is one of those underused but useful words that’s always a boon to one’s vocabulary. Though it describes something difficult to understand, there is nothing recondite about the word’s history. It dates to the early 1600s, when it was coined from the Latin word reconditus, the past participle of recondere, “to conceal.” (“Concealed” is also a meaning of recondite, albeit an obscure one today.) Remove the re- of recondite and you get something even more obscure: condite, an obsolete verb meaning both “to pickle or preserve” and “to embalm.” Add the prefix in- to that quirky charmer and we get incondite, which means “badly put together,” as in “incondite prose.” All three words have the Latin word condere at their root; that verb is translated variously as “to put or bring together” and “to put up or store”—as in, perhaps, some pickles or preserves.

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