al·​tar ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce altar (audio)
often attributive
: a usually raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship
often used figuratively to describe a thing given great or undue precedence or value especially at the cost of something else
sacrificed his family life on the altar of career advancement
: a tablelike construction used in the Christian church in celebrating the Eucharist
: a table or place which serves as a center of worship or ritual
often used with the to refer to the act of getting married
They are destined for the altar.
She left him at the altar. [=she decided at the last minute not to go through with her planned marriage to him]

Examples of altar in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This is Williams’ fourth time at the altar, about a year and a half after the death of his third wife, Mary Jane Thomas. al, 12 Sep. 2023 Indeed, since there appears to be little public appetite for sacrificing our children’s futures upon the altar of their elders’ anxiety, what purpose does the Times’ warning serve other than as an ultimatum to the nation’s parents? The Editors, National Review, 31 Aug. 2023 The garden's Día de los Muertos event will feature a community altar centered on the iconic skeleton figure La Catrina. The Arizona Republic, 31 Aug. 2023 The couple held their ceremony in the Lady Chapel behind the main altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Sarah Bray, Town & Country, 23 Aug. 2023 About a santero from Caguas who swept in to purchase Mercado’s meditation altar. Edgar Gomez, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2023 Their journey to the altar was a smooth one, with nearly no complications or drama... other than Brett's last-minute pants alteration on his wedding day! Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 31 Aug. 2023 Netflix has gotten down on one knee and offered us all an eternal gift — another season of messy people in their 20s rushing to get to the altar. Bella Arnold, Vulture, 9 Aug. 2023 Former ballerina Natalie Burn shows off all sorts of martial arts moves as a woman who leaves her groom at the altar and then has to survive a night of hell when the cunning best man (Cam Gigandet) and a violent pack of groomsmen try to bring her back. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 3 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'altar.' 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 alter, from Old English altar, from Latin altare; probably akin to Latin adolēre to burn up

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of altar was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near altar

Cite this Entry

“Altar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


al·​tar ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce altar (audio)
: a raised place on which sacrifices are offered
: a platform or table used as a center of worship
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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