altar boy


: a boy who assists the celebrant in a liturgical service
chiefly US : a morally pure and virtuous person
No one expects … the trendsetter and party animal to become an altar boy.Johnnie L. Roberts
typically used in negative constructions to describe a man whose behavior is not entirely admirable or blameless
A long time ago she married a man who turns out, by his own admission, to be somewhat dishonest—not a killer, not a dope peddler, but no altar boy, either.Richard Cohen

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Another Baltimore victim, who reported that Father Joseph Davies repeatedly raped him as an altar boy in the 1950s, attempted suicide in high school. Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2023 Primal Fear presented audiences with a stunning major debut performance by Edward Norton as a young altar boy, Aaron, accused of murdering an archbishop. Jacob Linden, Men's Health, 28 Mar. 2023 Then Florance reportedly segued into a slide with a photo of his son as an altar boy at Colin Powell’s funeral. Curbed, 23 Feb. 2022 In fact, Pope Francis recently called Patriarch Kirill, 'Putin's altar boy' and warned him not to be that close to those political leaders. CBS News, 6 July 2022 There was the time that Patterson and a fellow altar boy—Patterson grew up in a devoutly Catholic family—almost got caught with a stash of unconsecrated Communion hosts that his friend had squirrelled away for post-Mass snacking. Laura Miller, The New Yorker, 13 June 2022 Her mother sent her to Catholic school at nearby St. Francis, where James Cagney once served as an altar boy. Roy Trakin, Variety, 9 June 2022 Buck, who was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy, also was molested by several priests and a monsignor, according to his lawyer. Matthew Ormsethstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022 Brennan had been named in more than 20 abuse complaints during his long church career, and Philadelphia prosecutors charged him in 2013 with raping former altar boy Sean McIlmail in 1998. Maryclaire Dale, Baltimore Sun, 31 Mar. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'altar boy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1772, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of altar boy was in 1772

Dictionary Entries Near altar boy

Cite this Entry

“Altar boy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition

altar boy

: a boy who assists the priest in a church service
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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