Just want to make sure I'm correctly using this word. According to my dictionary it's an adjective so I was originally using it all wrong. I usually don't pay attention to what type of word a word is, and go more by whether it sounds right to me. My understanding is that an adjective adds detail to a noun, and usually must come either before or after it. In the sour-examples below, am I correctly using recondite, in terms of both its definition, and proper use of an adjective?

Example 1:

This is quite a recondite, and unglued piece you've written; not to pontificate, but perhaps if you'd not been drunk at the time reading your piece would not rival the enjoyment of eating sorrel.

Example 2:

A recondite examination is mandatory at the end of the school year; if you don't want to off yourself before you will after.

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    I learned a new word today... (<-- Native AmE speaker.) I started googling in order to see it used in anything, and it took some doing; the first several pages were about its definition and usage as well as a band named Recondite. I don't know it well enough to offer solid advice, but from my reading the word means obscure, unclear, or not well known. It seems like it fits in the first sentence much better than the second. The grammar of both is solid, though you don't need the comma after the first usage. "Recondite" is a recondite word... Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


Syntactically your uses are fine (except for that first comma in the first example): recondite is, as you say, an adjective, and ordinarily modifies a noun or noun phrase, either a) preceding the noun it modifies or b) following a form of be with the noun it modifies as the subject.

Prof. Sartorius’ very recondite study of North Semitic verb forms ...
Prof. Sartorius’ study is recondite and will be of little use to the non-specialist.

Semantically, however, you’re on shakier ground. Semantically, recondite does imply ‘obscure, difficult’; but the obscurity and difficulty arise because the matters treated are very little known or are very profound, hidden from most people’s knowledge (the word derives from a Latin participle meaning ‘concealed’). So a drunken rant may be difficult to follow obscure to the point of unintelligibility; but that is probably because it is incoherent, not because it is recondite. And an examination, however difficult, is unlikely to be recondite, although it may give you an opportunity to display your recondite knowledge.


Yes, you are using it properly, but being an uncommon word its meaning varies from person to person. It can mean: something that is difficult to comprehend, something that is comprehended by few people, something that few people comprehend because it's difficult to comprehend, or something that few people are aware of. What it means will depend on which dictionary you choose to go by.

It would appear that you are using it to mean something is hard to understand, which works, and appears to be the word's most popular definition. Personally I would probably use it for something that is uncommon, and understood by few because it's difficult to understand.

Given that your question already appears on page 6 of Google Search when searching recondite + definition , and that dictionaries are unable to agree on what it means, the word itself is recondite, so use it as you see fit.

Definition of recondite by various dictionaries:

  • The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Page 614): hard to understand
  • Webster's New Explorer Dictionary (Page 437): hard to understand
  • Merriam-Webster.com | h.t.t.p://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recondite : not understood or known by many people
  • Oxforddictionaries.com | h.t.t.p://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/recondite : little known
  • dictionary.cambridge.org | h.t.t.p://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/recondite : not known about by many people and difficult to understand
  • thefreedictionary.com | h.t.t.p://www.thefreedictionary.com/recondite : not easily understood
  • dictionary.reference.com | h.t.t.p://dictionary.reference.com/browse/recondite : dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter
  • collinsdictionary.com | h.t.t.p://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/recondite : requiring special knowledge to be understood
  • Longman Dictionary Of Contemporary English | h.t.t.p://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/recondite : recondite facts or subjects are not known about or understood by many people
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Current English : abstruse [It defines abstruse as: hard to understand]
  • Harrap's Concise French and English Dictionary (Page 638) : abstrus
  • Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (Page 1125) : remote from ordinary or easy perception

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