an·​cil·​lary | \ ˈan(t)-sə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce ancillary (audio) , -ˌle-rē, especially British an-ˈsi-lə-rē \

Definition of ancillary

1 : subordinate, subsidiary the main factory and its ancillary plants
2 : auxiliary, supplementary the need for ancillary evidence ancillary expenses ancillary equipment

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Other Words from ancillary

ancillary noun

Did You Know?

Ancillary derives from the English word ancilla, a somewhat rare word that means "an aid to achieving or mastering something difficult." That word derives from Latin, where it meant "female servant." While English "ancilla" is unlikely to be encountered except in very specialized contexts (such as philosophy or quantum computing), "ancillary" picks up on the notion of providing aid or support in a way that supplements something else. In particular, the word often describes something that is in a position of secondary importance, such as the "ancillary products in a company’s line."

Examples of ancillary in a Sentence

The lockout rocked the NHL, but among the ancillary benefits has been the emergence of young players who apprenticed for an additional season in the minors … — Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 21 Nov. 2005 I am in love with a man who is in love with boats. As far as ancillary loves are concerned, I understand things could be worse. Sadly, I do not love boats. — Ann Patchett, Gourmet, May 2003 Traditionally museums have been built to house collections, and for ancillary functions such as storage, conservation, administration, and education. — Jayne Merkel, Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2002 Paleolithic hunters and gatherers obtained an abundance of complete protein, mostly from wild game; their vegetable foods were an ancillary protein source. This pattern prevailed until agriculture transformed it, shifting the human diet away from meat and toward plant food. — S. Boyd Eaton et al., The Paleolithic Prescription, 1988 The company hopes to boost its sales by releasing ancillary products.
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Recent Examples on the Web But any of that discussion is really ancillary to the colossal failure of Herman in Austin. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "Timing may have been odd, but Tom Herman’s firing indicates his level of failure at Texas," 2 Jan. 2021 That staying power is unfettered by ancillary projects or products. Washington Post, "‘Calvin and Hobbes’ said goodbye 25 years ago. Here’s why Bill Watterson’s masterwork enchants us still.," 31 Dec. 2020 As an example, many scientists unhelpfully focused their replies to the Great Barrington Declaration, which criticized lockdowns, on ancillary questions about the authors’ potential ties to libertarian funding. Jacob Hale Russell, STAT, "Let’s put the straw man of pandemic denial out of his misery," 23 Dec. 2020 But Okoro has never worried about the ancillary stuff. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "How Isaac Okoro went from debated draft prospect to ready-made rookie and potential starter," 22 Dec. 2020 First responders received the call around 2:15 p.m., which prompted 12 fire units and several ancillary units to arrive at the 3500 block of Hunters Gate, Lt. John Halstead said., "Fire to Northeast Side home; no injuries," 12 Dec. 2020 During Connecticut’s initial COVID-19 wave last spring, hospitals set up various ancillary sites to treat patients, from tents in parking lots to overflow hospitals at the Connecticut Convention Center and other large venues. Emily Brindley,, "Reallocating staff, moving patients, setting up new sites: Connecticut hospitals prep for surge of patients as COVID-19 spreads," 8 Dec. 2020 Taking on this project of becoming entrepreneurs and coming up with a business plan and handling all those ancillary needs like becoming a general contractor or getting deep into the design... Olivia Harrison,, "Why Two Corporate Attorneys Moved Across The Country To Open A Coffee Shop," 30 Nov. 2020 Those numbers are sure to change as new details emerge, such as the federal government paying for 6.6 million ancillary supply kits. Bloomberg News, oregonlive, "States will bear financial, logistical burden of distributing COVID-19 vaccines," 10 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ancillary.' 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 ancillary

1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ancillary

see ancilla

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Time Traveler for ancillary

Time Traveler

The first known use of ancillary was in 1667

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ancillary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for ancillary


How to pronounce ancillary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ancillary

formal : providing something additional to a main part or function


an·​cil·​lary | \ ˈan(t)-sə-ˌler-ē, especially British an-ˈsil-ə-rē \

Medical Definition of ancillary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: being auxiliary or supplementary use of a drug as ancillary to surgical treatment ancillary staff ancillary diagnostic services


plural ancillaries

Medical Definition of ancillary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 British : one who assists or is supplementary to another person
2 : a supplemental diagnostic or therapeutic medical service (as magnetic resonance imaging or radiotherapy)


an·​cil·​lary | \ ˈan-sə-ˌler-ē, an-ˈsi-lə-rē How to pronounce ancillary (audio) \

Legal Definition of ancillary

1 : having a subordinate, subsidiary, or secondary nature ancillary functions an ancillary agreement
2 : serving as a supplement or addition ancillary documents
3 : directly related ancillary claims

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