1. From another part of the world; foreign: exotic tropical plants in a greenhouse.
2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange: “If something can be explained simply, in a familiar way, then it is best to avoid more exotic explanations” (Chet Raymo).
3. Of or involving striptease: an exotic dancer.
1. A plant or animal that is exotic.
2. A striptease performer.
[Latin exōticus, from Greek exōtikos, from exō, outside; see EXO-.]
Usage Note: Based on its etymology, exotic just means “from somewhere else” or “ foreign.” But because of its association with stereotyped or superficial depictions of non-Western cultures such as those of East Asia, Africa, and the islands of Polynesia, it can be offensive when used to describe a people's cuisine, dress, or customs. The term is still widely used and not generally regarded as offensive when describing plants that are growing outside their native range (exotic plants like kudzu) or unusual animals kept as pets (chameleons and other exotics).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.