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

Synonyms & Antonyms for acolyte


adherent, convert, disciple, follower, partisan (also partizan), pupil, votarist, votary



Visit the Thesaurus 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

Of course, there are guest appearances by acolytes. Christina Aguilera,, "Album reviews: Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy and Charles Lloyd," 28 June 2018 Scientist Elaine DiMasi, Bernie Sanders acolyte David Pechefsky and former county official Vivian Viloria-Fisher make up the rest of the field. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Live results in New York, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Maryland primary elections," 26 June 2018 And because this is Depp, an acolyte of Hunter S. Thompson, there was some drug talk, too. Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY, "Johnny Depp's Rolling Stone interview does little to repair his big-spender reputation," 21 June 2018 By placing an unabashed acolyte of President Trump at the top of the ticket, Virginia Republicans have energized their base but may have complicated GOP efforts to hang on to four crucial House seats, analysts said Wednesday. Jenna Portnoy, Washington Post, "Corey Stewart’s Senate nomination could reverberate down the ballot in Virginia," 13 June 2018 Schubert, the acolyte of former Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, cruised to a comfortable victory over a pair of competitors in 2014. Darrell Smith, sacbee, "Sacramento DA Schubert takes commanding lead in early returns after contentious campaign," 5 June 2018 His main challenger is Henri Falcon, a former governor and one-time acolyte of the late President Hugo Chavez. Fox News, "AP Explains: What's at stake in Venezuelan presidential vote," 17 May 2018 He was protected by acolytes for years before a tip from British and American intelligence led to his capture in Belgrade. Janine Di Giovanni, Newsweek, "Remembering the Horrors Bosnians Endured Under Radovan Karadzic," 5 Apr. 2016 This year, Cheek, after watching Cobb fall into a deficit, decided to run against Commissioner Joann Birrell, one of Lee’s acolytes on the board. Bill Torpy, ajc, "Torpy at Large: When gadflies try to enter the Belly of the Beast," 24 May 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

6 Sep 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 make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

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!