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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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 Karen Bass is a lunatic Fidel Castro acolyte who praised Scientology and once belonged to an armed revolutionary group. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "This Is How Trump Will Try to Take Down Kamala Harris," 5 Aug. 2020 For $40 per class at modelFit’s Soho studio, New Yorkers could strive for long, lean limbs like Karlie Kloss, Chrissy Teigen, or Taylor Swift, all noted modelFit acolytes. Jenni Avins, Quartz, "The future of fitness is at home," 28 Apr. 2020 Perhaps the most delightful moment of this book so filled with tragedy comes when Lovell recounts an interview with one American former acolyte of Mao who had left the cause years before. Julian Gewirtz, Harper's Magazine, "To Rebel Is Justified," 30 Mar. 2020 Pedretti shared a scene with Austin Butler as a Charles Manson acolyte on Spahn Ranch. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Victoria Pedretti Talks Working with Penn Badgley, Being Cast in You, and Wanting to Work with Taika Waititi," 20 Jan. 2020 That animosity begins to come to a head when Jesus makes a triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by a crowd of acolytes who laid palm branches in his path (Palm Sunday). National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 9 Apr. 2020 With her trademarked KonMari decluttering method, Ms. Kondo has led millions of acolytes to purge their closets, basements and pantries. New York Times, "How Marie Kondo Declutters During a Pandemic," 20 Mar. 2020 But this reliance on the rulings of a privileged few has long been under siege by the data-gathering and informal networks of rationally minded, non-Temple of Design acolytes. John Maeda, Fortune, "The Temple of Design Doesn’t Rule This Century," 12 Nov. 2019 That should tide Lord Morpheus acolytes over until the Netflix series finally sees the light of day. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Neil Gaiman narrates teaser for forthcoming Sandman audio drama," 4 Mar. 2020

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.

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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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Time Traveler for acolyte

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

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Acolyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for acolyte


How to pronounce acolyte (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of acolyte

formal : someone who follows and admires a leader
: someone who helps the person who leads a church service

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