ac·​o·​lyte ˈa-kə-ˌlīt How to pronounce acolyte (audio)
: one who assists a member of the clergy in a liturgical service by performing minor duties
: one who attends or assists a leader : follower
The mayor dined with a few of his acolytes.

Did you know?

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 Kari Lake, a Trump acolyte running for Senate in Arizona, is struggling to walk away from the controversial positions that have turned off independents and alienated establishment Republicans. Katie Rogers, New York Times, 26 Mar. 2024 Aykroyd had grown up in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, a worshipful acolyte of rhythm and blues. John Belushi, USA TODAY, 19 Mar. 2024 Schiff already has signaled plans to use the ample contempt for Trump among most California voters to skewer his opponent in November, Republican and former Dodgers star Steve Garvey, as a Trump acolyte. Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2024 And his work has drawn acolytes who would like to think so, too — including some of the very people in big tech whose work Mr. Haidt seems to hold responsible for the rising generation’s social ills. Emma Goldberg, New York Times, 23 Mar. 2024 In the first film, her relationship with acolyte Lady Jessica plays a bit like a perpetually skeptical head of the CIA dealing with an exasperating but productive rogue agent. Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times, 5 Mar. 2024 And yet, contrary to claims by Trump and MAGA acolytes, Ukraine is not losing. Trudy Rubin, Twin Cities, 8 Feb. 2024 Volkswagen, which also owns Porsche and Audi, was an early acolyte of the EV craze and hasn’t been immune to these industry obstacles. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 13 Mar. 2024 Postman, an acolyte of the influential Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, argued that if McLuhan’s most famous postulation was correct—that the medium is the message—then television was a uniquely destructive and obscurantist force that had already ruined American discourse. Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 8 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acolyte.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near acolyte

Cite this Entry

“Acolyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ac·​o·​lyte ˈak-ə-ˌlīt How to pronounce acolyte (audio)
: a person who assists a member of the clergy in a service

More from Merriam-Webster on acolyte

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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