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 elsesacrificed 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 marriedThey 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 altar and wooden statues inside the mission also came through unscathed. Andrew J. Campa Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "‘My heart is full of sadness’: Faithful stunned by destruction of San Gabriel Mission fire," 11 July 2020 The altar, which was not damaged in the fire, was handcrafted in Mexico City and brought to California in the 1790s. NBC News, "Fire ravages 249-year-old Spanish mission in Southern California," 11 July 2020 The city government is also planning to set up an altar near City Hall for those mourning the three-term mayor’s sudden death. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "'Sorry to all people': Authorities reveal note Seoul mayor wrote before his mysterious death," 10 July 2020 A few weeks ago, the gold chalice on the altar was stolen, along with the door on the church’s bathroom. Bill Donahue, Washington Post, "For the Olympics, poor communities in host cities are regularly displaced. For the Rio 2016 games, one village’s resistance sparked a global question: Should they be abolished?," 6 July 2020 The altar was decorated with flowers and demonstrators took turns dropping offerings, many lingering in silence and kneeling. Matt Kawahara,, "Rage gives way to grief and hope in Bay Area protests," 9 June 2020 Yet the rush to the altar (or shrine) may be short-lived. The Economist, "Knot happy Covid-19 spurs single Japanese to look for love," 4 June 2020 An altar was made around a large statue of a man and a woman. Dallas News, "At Sunday vigils, hundreds gather to remember lives lost to police brutality," 1 June 2020 Kenny handled Kelly's decision with the most grace out of all the cast members who were turned down at the altar, and spoke directly to the crowd of family and friends. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Kelly and Kenny From 'Love Is Blind' Didn't Get Married After All," 27 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for altar

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Altar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for altar


How to pronounce altar (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

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