ac·​o·​lyte | \ˈa-kə-ˌlīt, -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.

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Follow the etymological path of acolyte back far enough and you'll arrive at keleuthos, a Greek noun that means "path" and that is itself the parent of akolouthos, an adjective that means "following." Akolouthos traveled from Greek, leaving offspring in Medieval Latin and Anglo-French, and its descendant, acolyte, emerged in English in the 14th century. Originally, it was exclusively a term for a person who assisted a priest at Mass, but by the 19th century acolyte 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

Then there’s Peter Bogdanovich, who plays a Hannaford acolyte who’s become more successful than his mentor. Keith Phipps, The Verge, "Netflix’s Orson Welles revival is strange, fascinating, and frustrating," 1 Nov. 2018 In June Bernie Sanders acolyte Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knocked off 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens. Allysia Finley, WSJ, "A Democratic Reformer Tries to Hang On in New England," 7 Sep. 2018 The president and his acolytes are championing conspiracy theories and a sweeping, uncalibrated, all-out assault on our institutions. Kevin Baker, The New Republic, "Why America needs truth and reconciliation after Trump," 17 May 2018 Then-Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley is also a Carroll acolyte. Jeff Mclane,, "Film breakdown: How the Eagles' offense can beat the Falcons' defense in the playoffs," 11 Jan. 2018 Xavier Renard, 31, an engineering product manager in Oakland, is one of the many Allbirds acolytes in the Bay Area. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "How the ‘World’s Most Comfortable Shoe’ Is Challenging Nike and Adidas," 21 May 2018 She and the other acolytes harbor a mild obsession with his origins. Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times, "The Mysterious ‘Parking Lot Attendant’ at the Center of a Web of Intrigue," 4 May 2018 In 1983, authorities in North Dakota tried to arrest a Posse acolyte named Gordon Kahl, a mechanic who had violated probation in a tax-evasion case, and two U.S. marshals died in the ensuing standoff. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "The Renegade Sheriffs," 23 Apr. 2018 Of course, not every Musk fan is as fervent an acolyte as Ocean and Gomez. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "The gospel of Elon Musk, according to his flock," 26 June 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about acolyte

Listen to Our Podcast about acolyte

Dictionary Entries near acolyte








Statistics for acolyte

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for acolyte

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for acolyte



English Language Learners Definition of acolyte

: someone who follows and admires a leader

: someone who helps the person who leads a church service

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on acolyte

What made you want to look up acolyte? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!