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 Reagan, on the other hand, left the reservation after abandoning her fiancé at the altar, earned two Masters degrees, and returned to run a struggling cultural center inside a casino that is often confused for the gift shop. Ramou Sarr, Glamour, "Rutherford Falls Review: If You're Not Watching This Comedy Series, You're Missing Out," 29 Apr. 2021 This romantic comedy follows Roberts’s character, Maggie, who has made a name for herself by leaving men at the altar. Travis Bean, Forbes, "The 10 Best Movies To Stream On Netflix Before They Disappear At The End Of April," 17 Apr. 2021 With his boyish good looks and goofy sensibilities, Knighton would be the sole lead on any other prime-time show; plot lines would default to Dave navigating life after being left at the altar by Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) in the pilot. Sophy Ziss, Vulture, "‘Cocktails & Dreams’ Is Happy Endings at Its Most Potent," 13 Apr. 2021 In a flashback, after Jack and Miguel finally free the ring and finish proposal preparations, Jack asks Miguel to stand at the altar with him. Amanda Ostuni,, "This Is Us recap: Miguel and the Pearsons confront complicated feeling," 7 Apr. 2021 An altar of candles and flowers are fittingly placed on the piano in the video. Sarah Spellings, Vogue, "Aura Readings on Video? Lia Ices Shows How It’s Done," 2 Apr. 2021 Candles, flowers and incense rest alongside a can of beans, pine cones and tchotchkes on an altar below pictures of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter signs and colorful paper with handwritten names of the deceased. Darcel Rockett,, "Volunteers create Black Lives Matter memorial under the Red Line in Rogers Park with the names of people killed by police," 30 Dec. 2020 Utah State University’s Latinx Creative Society has dedicated an altar to those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Misinformation, gig economy, ‘Fair Tax’ defeat: News from around our 50 states," 5 Nov. 2020 An altar decked with fruit, flowers, candles, a cross and other items was surrounded by images of people who died from COVID-19. Audrey Jensen, The Arizona Republic, "Art installation of 500 chairs in garden at Capitol honors Arizona COVID-19 deaths," 31 Oct. 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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Statistics for altar

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Altar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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 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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