ab·​lu·​tion ə-ˈblü-shən How to pronounce ablution (audio)
formal : the washing of one's body or part of it (as in a religious rite)
usually plural
ritual ablutions
performing his morning ablutions
ablutions ə-ˈblü-shənz How to pronounce ablution (audio)
plural, British : a building on a military base that houses bathing and toilet facilities
ablutionary adjective

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The Religious History of Ablution

Ablution derives via Middle French and Middle English from the Latin verb abluere, meaning "to wash away," formed from the prefix ab- ("away, off") and lavere ("to wash"). Early uses of the word occurred in contexts of alchemy and chemistry. The first known use of ablution to refer to washing as a religious rite occurs in Thomas More's The Apologye Made by Hym (1533). Many religions include some kind of washing of the body in their rituals, usually as a form of purification or dedication. The use of the term to refer to the action of washing one's body without any religious significance did not take hold in English until the mid-18th century. In British English, ablutions can also refer to a building housing bathing and toilet facilities on a military base.

Examples of ablution in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The ritual at all the shrines starts with purifying yourself at an ablution basin by washing your hands with a ladle and rinsing your mouth. Norma Meyer, Orange County Register, 15 May 2024 Limited access to water means others cannot make the obligatory ablution before prayer. Sana Noor Haq, CNN, 13 Mar. 2024 One day at dawn, Raba’s mother went outside to perform ablutions and took her along. Anand Gopal, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2024 After all, bathrooms are far more than just places for morning ablutions and a spot to do your business in. Jermaine Gallacher, Vogue, 1 Aug. 2023 The Scripture and Hadith describe what’s known as ghusl, or full-body ablution. Muna Mire, New York Times, 4 Oct. 2022 The bath is no longer a place for community, for symposium, for ablution. Brennan Kilbane, Allure, 22 Mar. 2022 We were trapped in time, in the commodification of flesh, saints without the gift of ablution. Romeo Oriogun, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 The mosque used to cover an area of almost 2,000 square meters, with a main hall, a guest hall, and ablution room. Alessandra Cappelletti, Quartz, 12 Mar. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ablution.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English ablucioun "cleansing of oil (in alchemy)," borrowed from Late Latin ablūtiōn-, ablūtiō "washing, cleansing" (Medieval Latin, "cleansing of oil"), from Latin abluere "to wash off, cleanse," from ab- ab- + -luere, form in combination of lavere "to wash" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns — more at lye

First Known Use

1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ablution was in 1533


Dictionary Entries Near ablution

Cite this Entry

“Ablution.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ablution. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


ab·​lu·​tion ə-ˈblü-shən How to pronounce ablution (audio)
: washing oneself especially as a religious rite

Medical Definition


ab·​lu·​tion ə-ˈblü-shən, a-ˈblü- How to pronounce ablution (audio)
: the washing of one's body or part of it
ablutionary adjective

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