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rarified (adj) (of a place, organization, activity) open to or participated by only a few; (of air/atmosphere) having less oxygen than usual.
If only a small group of intellectuals understand something, it is understood only by a small group of intellectuals. It is not open to common human beings. The Vedas, ancient holy books of the Hindus, are understood by a small group of Vedic pundits, so we say that they are limited to the rarefied atmosphere of the punditry. Rarefied atmosphere consists of less oxygen than usual. This happens particularly at mountain top at great altitudes.
- Brought up in the rarefied atmosphere of academic life, he had no touch with the realities of life. The university and its surroundings in which he grew did not let him have any knowledge of the outside world.
- The mountaineers in short supply of oxygen made the little progress of climbing up just ten feet an hour. The lack of sufficient oxygen in the rarefied atmosphere made the climb difficult, and forced them to stop for breath at every few feet.