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.

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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

With just over a week left before the state’s primary next Tuesday, Ward is racing to take down Arpaio, a fellow Trump acolyte, and McSally, who’s widely seen as the establishment pick and the frontrunner. Li Zhou, Vox, "Arizona’s Kelli Ward is campaigning with an alt-right troll to prove her love for Trump," 20 Aug. 2018 Is 28-year-old Sanders acolyte and Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the future of her party, or a fluke? Ted Rall, WSJ, "One Man Can Unite Democrats: James Comey," 26 July 2018 And in Florida, Bernie Sanders acolyte Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, picked up a surprise win in Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Democratic senator in Delaware latest to face leftist primary challenger," 6 Sep. 2018 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

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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Statistics for acolyte

Last Updated

11 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for acolyte

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

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English Language Learners Definition of acolyte

: someone who follows and admires a leader

: someone who helps the person who leads a church service

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