noun, often attributive
al·​tar | \ ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce altar (audio) \

Definition of altar

1 : 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
2a : a tablelike construction used in the Christian church in celebrating the Eucharist
b : 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

The nave became the parliamentary lobby and the choir stalls the benches; the Speaker sat where the altar had been. The Economist, "Parliaments get facelifts; but it is politics that really needs one," 27 July 2019 These days, anyone who still genuflects at the altar of cinema amid our putative streaming-service renaissance runs the risk of being labeled hopelessly retrograde. Los Angeles Times, "Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,’ the haunting work of a filmmaker running out of time," 26 July 2019 Here, flanking the altar with its fabulous twisted green columns, is a curious painting of Santo Saverio kneeling beside the sea as a crab offers him his long-missing crucifix in its claws. Frances Mayes, National Geographic, "Discover Italy’s most delicious secret," 11 July 2019 At some point thereafter, a decision was made to add transepts at the choir, where the altar is, to bring more light into the center of the church. Klara Glowczewska, Town & Country, "Notre Dame Cathedral Will Never Be the Same—and That's Ok," 19 Apr. 2019 Looming large behind the altar was a photograph of Pickett inside a police vehicle, his head tilted against Brik. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "Jacob Pickett funeral updates: A final resting place," 9 Mar. 2018 Maniscalco might be an under-the-radar performer to many among the teen and young adult demographic that worships at the altar of such iconoclasts as Hasan Minhaj, Hannah Gadsby and John Mulaney., "For Sebastian Maniscalo, comedy is a curated experience for his fans," 19 July 2019 In the video, Ciara — who has long spoken about the importance of her Christian faith — appears at an altar with out Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his real-life spouse Justin Mikita. Kaitlin Reilly,, "Ciara Responds To Criticism For Appearing In Taylor Swift's "You Need To Calm Down" Video," 18 June 2019 The scene was set: Jamie stood at the altar with his brother, Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) and his grandfather, Henry Reagan (Lou Cariou) by his side. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "'Blue Bloods' Fans 'Feel Cheated' Over the Shocking Finale Cliffhanger," 13 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'altar.' 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 altar

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

History and Etymology for altar

Middle English alter, from Old English altar, from Latin altare; probably akin to Latin adolēre to burn up

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Statistics for altar

Last Updated

7 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for altar

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

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English Language Learners Definition of altar

: a raised place on which sacrifices and gifts are offered in some religions
: a platform or table used as a center of worship in Christian ceremonies and services


al·​tar | \ ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce altar (audio) \

Kids Definition of altar

1 : a platform or table used as a center of worship
2 : a usually raised place on which sacrifices are offered

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More from Merriam-Webster on altar

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with altar

Spanish Central: Translation of altar

Nglish: Translation of altar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of altar for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about altar

Comments on altar

What made you want to look up altar? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to shake or wave menacingly

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