ab·​lu·​tion | \ ə-ˈblü-shən How to pronounce ablution (audio) , a- \

Definition of ablution

1 formal : the washing of one's body or part of it (as in a religious rite) usually pluralritual ablutionsperforming his morning ablutions
2 ablutions\ ə-​ˈblü-​shənz How to pronounce ablutions (audio) , a-​ \ plural, British : a building on a military base that houses bathing and toilet facilities

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Other Words from ablution

ablutionary \ ə-​ˈblü-​shə-​ˌner-​ē How to pronounce ablutionary (audio) , -​ˌne-​rē , a-​ \ adjective

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 primary bathroom and half-bathrooms offer ablution stations replicated from what is traditionally found in mosques. Dallas News, "Building Element creates three-story ‘forward-thinking’ design," 27 Sep. 2020 At another, wells and an 8-foot-tall stone basin believed to have been used for ablution by pilgrims coming to give tribute to a pantheon of gods suggest an advanced water management system. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "Digging up forgotten kingdoms, Saudis unearth ancient identity," 1 June 2020 When a Dallas nurse was diagnosed with Ebola in 2014, area churchgoers added ablutions to their handshakes of peace. Dan Zak, Washington Post, "The power of Purell compels you!," 26 Mar. 2020 Communal taps, shared ablution facilities and open sewerage have been a health risk for decades; causing disease and diseases. Norma Young, Quartz Africa, "South Africa’s poor face a health and safety quandary as the country goes into coronavirus lockdown," 24 Mar. 2020 In Chicago, at the headquarters of Gogo, the in-flight internet provider, a prayer and wellness room is outfitted with an ablution station that can be used by Muslims who practice foot washing before praying. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "A Quiet Respite in a Bustling Open Workplace," 18 Feb. 2020 Every Moroccan village centers on a fountain for ablutions before Islamic prayer. National Geographic, "Visit a designer’s oasis in the heart of Marrakech," 20 Sep. 2019 Many stepwells were used for ablution; the tanks associated with mosques, Hindu temples and other shrines offered the most purificatory form. Summoning water from the depths was also a symbol of temporal power. The Economist, "India’s magnificent stepwells are relics of a nuanced history," 13 July 2019 With ritual precision, the vestals awaken their miserable charges each dawn and roll them about on their beds of pain while performing ablutions, in the formal movements of which the maidens are highly trained. Gabriel Winant, The New Republic, "Barbara Ehrenreich’s radical critique of wellness and self-improvement," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ablution.' 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 ablution

1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ablution

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

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The first known use of ablution was in 1533

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Last Updated

2 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ablution.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ablution. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for ablution


ab·​lu·​tion | \ ə-ˈblü-shən, a-ˈblü- How to pronounce ablution (audio) \

Medical Definition of ablution

: the washing of one's body or part of it

Other Words from ablution

ablutionary \ -​shə-​ˌner-​ē How to pronounce ablutionary (audio) \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on ablution

Nglish: Translation of ablution for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ablution for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ablution

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