noun, often attributive
al·​tar | \ˈȯl-tər \

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

Flora's family has a makeshift altar with photographs of family members who have died in her hospital room, which Meredith admires with the little girl's grandmother. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Grey's Anatomy Brought Back a Bunch of Familiar Faces for Last Night's Episode," 2 Nov. 2018 Archaeologists have unlocked the secrets of an amazing 1,500-year-old altar discovered at a Maya temple deep in the Guatemalan jungle. James Rogers, Fox News, "'Game of thrones' altar discovered at ancient Maya temple, reveals its secrets," 20 Sep. 2018 The Roman Catholic church has also raised alarm over the killings of three priests in recent months, including one who was shot in an altar while preparing to celebrate Mass in a northern village last month. Jim Gomez, The Seattle Times, "Philippine mayor killed a day after another was gunned down," 3 July 2018 The clip shows Delano writhing around a motel room, bathing in roses and praying at an altar to survive her 27th year on Earth, while channeling the grunge-rock sound of iconic groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Adore Delano Prays to Survive Her Late 20s in Moody New '27 Club' Video: Watch," 27 June 2018 At the end of the 12:00 church service, Elaine would take the flowers from the altar and deliver them to church members at the hospital, nursing home and shut-ins. Orlando Sentinel,, "Deaths in Central Florida: 5/23," 23 May 2018 Meghan's onscreen wedding is decorated with hanging lights and an altar of flowers and vines. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Looked Like a Princess in Her Wedding Dress on 'Suits'," 19 Apr. 2018 Fire Island is an altar to bread, with classics like Alaska whole wheat and Fire Island sourdough turned out daily and specials like challah, plum flax, and sprouted grain offered on specific weekdays. Genevieve Roth, Bon Appetit, "Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop Gets Me Through the Long Alaskan Winter," 6 June 2018 The author-illustrator grew up in Peru, neatly referenced in the art — book titles, Spanish words, an ancestor altar and a doll in traditional dress. Susan Faust, San Francisco Chronicle, "Roundup of new children’s books," 24 May 2018

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

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for altar

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

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More Definitions for altar



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 \

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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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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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