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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Follow the etymological path of acolyte back far enough and you'll arrive at kéleuthos, a Greek noun that means "path" and that is itself the parent of akólouthos, an adjective that means "following." Akólouthos traveled from Greek, leaving offspring in Medieval Latin and Anglo-French; its English descendant, acolyte, emerged in the 14th century. Originally, acolyte was exclusively a term for a person who assisted a priest at Mass, but by the 19th century, the word 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 Vargas, an instant Rekke acolyte, is transferred to another department. Tom Nolan, WSJ, 26 Aug. 2022 Baker-hating Trump acolyte Jim Lyons and his wild crew., 17 Aug. 2022 Last season, Smart joined Fisher as the only Saban acolyte to win a national title. Edgar Thompson, Orlando Sentinel, 31 Aug. 2022 On Tuesday night, Cheney, as expected, was shellacked in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s at-large congressional seat by Trump acolyte Harriet Hageman. Daniel Strauss, The New Republic, 17 Aug. 2022 Hutchinson’s testimony painted a consistent and unflattering portrait of Meadows, the former congressman turned Trump acolyte who left the House to become chief of staff. Jacqueline Alemany, Washington Post, 29 June 2022 Most political observers would tell you that the GOP’s chances of swinging this socially conservative district are better against Cisneros, a young acolyte of democratic socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, 21 Apr. 2022 Many eyes will also be fixed on Georgia's GOP secretary of state primary, where Republican Rep. Jody Hice, another Trump acolyte, looks to unseat current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Editors, USA TODAY, 24 May 2022 Cassidy remains an ardent Sutter acolyte, often crediting him as one of his top mentors and coaching model. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 21 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

16 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Acolyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on acolyte

Nglish: Translation of acolyte for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of acolyte for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about acolyte


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