an·​cil·​lary | \ˈan(t)-sə-ˌler-ē, -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

Not here for the chit-chat Quenton Nelson has all the ancillary stuff out of the way. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "Colts lineman all business," 11 May 2018 If that's the case, surely those benefits could be obtained more cost-effectively by tackling them directly, rather than as an ancillary effect of another measure. Maxine Joselow, Science | AAAS, "Clean air advocates worried by EPA’s move to rethink cost-benefit calculations," 25 June 2018 Such deliveries can lead to a whole new set of ancillary issues. Janelle Nanos,, "Food delivery right to your dorm door: How some campus dining halls are competing with GrubHub," 5 Apr. 2018 With so many questions, funding was an ancillary issue. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, "NATO’s 2% Target: Why the U.S. Pushed Allies to Spend More on the Military," 12 July 2018 Generally, storage systems have found a niche on the power grid by providing short-term and ancillary services, but long-duration options will be needed as more and more intermittent renewables are added to the grid. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Liquid-air energy storage: The latest new “battery” on the UK grid," 13 June 2018 And that revenue—essentially, fees per transaction for transferring funds—will come under threat as competitors offer free transfers, hoping to make profits from ancillary services. The Economist, "The best of timesWho gains and who loses from more financial inclusion," 3 May 2018 Our thanks also to the nurses, aides and ancillary staff and volunteer, Terry, from Hartford Healthcare at Home Hospice for their skilled care and compassion. Hartford Courant,, "Antoinette Kirk," 8 July 2018 Much of the fundraising now is going toward necessary infrastructure ancillary to the balloon, such as the mast, a baseplate, and foundation anchors. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "This Burning Man orb by Bjarke Ingels and Jakob Lange seeks your crowdfunding dollars," 5 July 2018

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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Statistics for ancillary

Last Updated

30 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ancillary

The first known use of ancillary was in 1667

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More Definitions for ancillary



English Language Learners Definition of ancillary

: providing something additional to a main part or function


an·​cil·​lary | \ˈan(t)-sə-ˌler-ē, esp 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 \

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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