bap·​tism ˈbap-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce baptism (audio)
 especially Southern  ˈbab-
: a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community
: a non-Christian rite using water for ritual purification
Christian Science : purification by or submergence in Spirit
: an act, experience, or ordeal by which one is purified, sanctified, initiated, or named
bap-ˈtiz-məl How to pronounce baptism (audio)
 especially Southern  bab-
baptismally adverb

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In Christianity, baptism is the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water. The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the doctrine originated by St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced ritual purification by immersion, and the Gospels report that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Baptism was an important ritual in the early church by the first century ce, and infant baptism appeared c. 200 ce. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches practice infant baptism. The Anabaptist reformers insisted on adult baptism after a confession of faith; modern Baptists and the Disciples of Christ also practice adult baptism.

Example Sentences

There were over 100 baptisms at our church last year. He received the sacrament of baptism as an infant.
Recent Examples on the Web The Erwins filmed for four weeks in Mobile and one week in California, capturing scenic vistas of the coast where the baptisms took place. al, 23 Feb. 2023 Three weeks later, despite having already made his NFL debut, Taylor-Britt’s first true test was baptism by fire. Mohammad Ahmad, cleveland, 24 Jan. 2023 In fact, the group attended the baptism of Mbise’s infant daughter during the trip. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, 3 Dec. 2022 The process of anointing is a deeply religious moment, similar to a baptism. Leila Sackur, NBC News, 6 May 2023 Many showed scenes of celebration, from nights at clubs to more spiritual moments such as a baptism. Ella Riley-adams, New York Times, 27 Apr. 2023 Then came the water rationing order, a baptism by fire for many citizens, which coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan where people gather to break their fasts with large feasts and gatherings, and water use is normally intense. Bouazza Ben Bouazza And Mehdi El Arem, The Christian Science Monitor, 19 Apr. 2023 Opinion At Easter, a baptism of hope April 9, 2023 Enrique Dominguez, 16, walked six hours from Espanola, carrying a drum. David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2023 The birth of Jesus and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River were considered two epiphanies, or events in which God revealed himself. al, 6 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English baptisme

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of baptism was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near baptism

Cite this Entry

“Baptism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


bap·​tism ˈbap-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce baptism (audio)
: the act or ceremony of baptizing
: an act or experience that baptizes
a soldier's baptism of fire
baptismal adjective
baptismally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on baptism

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