dis·​ci·​ple di-ˈsī-pəl How to pronounce disciple (audio)
: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as
Christianity : one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts
: a convinced adherent of a school or individual
a disciple of Freud
capitalized Christianity : a member of the Disciples of Christ founded in the U.S. in 1809 that holds the Bible alone to be the rule of faith and practice, usually baptizes by immersion, and has a congregational (see congregational sense 3) polity
discipleship noun
Choose the Right Synonym for disciple

follower, adherent, disciple, partisan mean one who gives full loyalty and support to another.

follower may apply to people who attach themselves either to the person or beliefs of another.

an evangelist and his followers

adherent suggests a close and persistent attachment.

adherents to Marxism

disciple implies a devoted allegiance to the teachings of one chosen as a master.

disciples of Gandhi

partisan suggests a zealous often prejudiced attachment.

partisans of the President

Example Sentences

a disciple of Sigmund Freud a circle of dedicated disciples who conscientiously wrote down everything the prophet said
Recent Examples on the Web Fichte’s onetime disciple and soon-to-be bitter rival, Schelling taught by the light of two candles. Greg Ellermann, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2022 Vincent was also pleased with the disciple and lack of egregious penalties during the scrimmage. Evan Dudley, al, 13 Aug. 2022 Ben-Gvir is a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane, an anti-Arab racist who called for the mass deportation of Palestinians and stripping Arabs of Israeli citizenship. Joseph Krauss, ajc, 2 Nov. 2022 Ben-Gvir is a disciple of a racist rabbi who was assassinated in the 1990s and has promised a hard line against the Palestinians. Tia Goldenberg, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Nov. 2022 And maybe, in a certain way, his disciple is the killer in all of us. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 13 Oct. 2022 Napier is a very good coach and a man who has embraced Saban’s Process as much as any disciple not named Kirby Smart. John Talty | Jtalty@al.com, al, 4 Sep. 2022 Jones soon met Freud and became his most fervent disciple in the English-speaking world. Andrew Nagorski, WSJ, 8 July 2022 But all these questions miss the point, the Buddha tells his disciple. New York Times, 31 May 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, "follower of Jesus, one of the apostles, pupil," in part going back to Old English discipul, in part borrowed from Anglo-French disciple, both borrowed from Late Latin discipulus "follower of Christ, apostle" (translation of Greek mathētḗs), going back to Latin, "pupil, learner," of uncertain origin

Note: Traditionally explained as a derivative of discere "to learn," but the second element -pulus is neither a known word nor a suffix. According to an alternative explanation, the base is nominalized from an unattested verb *discipere, putatively, "to grasp, comprehend," from dis- dis- and capere "to take, seize" (cf. disceptāre "to dispute, debate," supposedly a frequentative from this verb); this is semantically questionable, however, and -ulus is any case not an agentive suffix.

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of disciple was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near disciple

Cite this Entry

“Disciple.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disciple. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



dis·​ci·​ple dis-ˈī-pəl How to pronounce disciple (audio)
: a person who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of another
discipleship noun

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