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 And as if on command, the room filled with young men with their shirts stripped off and young women in tight black dresses, everyone moving as if in a trance, facing forward, almost like at a church, the D.J. the altar. New York Times, 26 July 2022 Core to Día de Muertos is the ofrenda, or the altar created to honor the dead. Katarina Avendano, Good Housekeeping, 25 July 2022 The venue features a large outdoor garden, ceremony site and altar, and cocktail area. Roger Sands, Forbes, 19 July 2022 There's an uncomfortable kneel-at-the-altar quality in the recent sagas, which complicates and even defeats the strides in representation. Darren Franich,, 22 June 2022 But a distinctly nonmarital altar awaits the trusting young girl. Rachel Hadas, The Conversation, 8 July 2022 From a people seeking religious freedom to a people happy to worship at the woke state’s altar of secularism. San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 July 2022 Candles still burned on a makeshift altar at the home, where Teófilo Valencia and Yolanda Olivares Ruiz, parents of 19-year-old Jair and 16-year-old Yovani, hoped for a miracle. Christopher Sherman,, 1 July 2022 The florals were strung up above the altar and trailed down into the aisle below. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 30 June 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About altar

Time Traveler for altar

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near altar

Altamonte Springs



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for altar

Last Updated

1 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Altar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for altar


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


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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