ac·​o·​lyte | \ ˈa-kə-ˌlīt How to pronounce acolyte (audio) , -kō-\

Definition of acolyte

1 : one who assists a member of the clergy in a liturgical service by performing minor duties
2 : one who attends or assists a leader : follower The mayor dined with a few of his acolytes.

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Did You Know?

Follow the etymological path of acolyte back far enough and you'll arrive at keleuthos, a Greek noun that means "path" and that is itself the parent of akolouthos, an adjective that means "following." Akolouthos traveled from Greek, leaving offspring in Medieval Latin and Anglo-French, and its descendant, acolyte, emerged in English in the 14th century. Originally, it was exclusively a term for a person who assisted a priest at Mass, but by the 19th century acolyte had acquired additional meanings, among them "attendant body, satellite" (a meaning used in astronomy) and "attendant insect" (a zoological sense), as well as the general meaning assistant or sidekick.

Examples of acolyte in a Sentence

a popular professor dining with a few of her acolytes a highly influential economist whose acolytes can be found at many major universities

Recent Examples on the Web

This includes examinations of a religious settlement in Pennsylvania, a suburb founded by anarchists in New Jersey and a pair of avant-garde bedroom communities outside of Boston designed by the acolytes of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Carolina A. Miranda,, "Amanda Kolson Hurley says suburbs were sites of experimentation — and could be again," 25 June 2019 Good news for Swift style acolytes: Her top is still available in most sizes. Glamour, "Taylor Swift Wore a $68 Free People Top on a Date With Joe Alwyn," 25 May 2019 Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Balenciaga’s friend and acolyte Hubert de Givenchy, the Palacio Aldamar is now the site of the dedicated Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa, an institution that has loaned a number of pieces to this exhibition. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "“Balenciaga and Spanish Painting” Opens at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid," 21 June 2019 Some polls say voters favor Falcon, a former acolyte of Chavez. Fabiola Sanchez And Scott Smith, Fox News, "Grave crisis drives apathy in Venezuelan election," 17 May 2018 Pak was a powerful and controversial figure in City Hall, with as many detractors as acolytes. Rachel Swan,, "Controversial plan to name SF subway stop after Chinatown activist stalls," 4 June 2019 When Daenerys Targareyn and Jon Snow came roaring into Winterfell in the opening moments of Game of Thrones' final season, the people of the North eyed their retinue of warriors, acolytes, and dragons with suspicion. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Game of Thrones Rivalry Between Sansa & Daenerys Is Gendered and Regressive," 16 Apr. 2019 Jeff Goldblum, Millie Bobbie Brown, Nicole Kidman, Ashton Sanders, and Timothée Chalamet are all CK acolytes—if that doesn’t prove the breadth of his vision than consider this: Simons took both Gwyneth Paltrow and ASAP Rocky to the Met Gala in 2017. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Odell Beckham Jr. Is Winning at Life in This Buttery Calvin Klein Suit," 13 Nov. 2018 Ahead of the Olympics in Pyeongchang, the gospel of the SmartBroom spread across the globe, and many of the teams competing in South Korea this month are acolytes. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Engineering Marvel of the Winter Olympics: A Broom," 6 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acolyte.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of acolyte

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for acolyte

Middle English acolite, borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French acolit, borrowed from Medieval Latin acolūthus, acolythus, acolitus, going back to Late Latin, "person assisting the priest," borrowed from Middle Greek akólouthos, going back to Greek, "following, (as noun) follower, attendant," from a- (variant, before a following aspirate consonant, of ha- "having one, having the same," going back to Indo-European sm̥-) + -kolouthos (ablaut form, in a compound, of kéleuthos "path"); akin to Greek heîs "one," homós "same" and perhaps to Greek keleúein "to direct forward, urge on" — more at same entry 1, hold entry 1

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Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for acolyte

The first known use of acolyte was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of acolyte

formal : someone who follows and admires a leader
: someone who helps the person who leads a church service

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