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 ablutionsperforming 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web 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 The holiday falls during the hottest part of the year in Thailand, so the water is not only a symbol of ablution but also welcome relief from the heat. al, 13 Apr. 2021 The ablution area covered by blue tiles clearly shows the past presence of a mosque. Alessandra Cappelletti, Quartz, 12 Mar. 2021 The primary bathroom and half-bathrooms offer ablution stations replicated from what is traditionally found in mosques. Dallas News, 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, 1 June 2020 See More

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.

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 31 Jan. 2023.

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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