ba·​sil·​i·​ca bə-ˈsi-li-kə How to pronounce basilica (audio)
 also  -ˈzi-
: an oblong building ending in a semicircular apse used in ancient Rome especially for a court of justice and place of public assembly
: an early Christian church building consisting of nave and aisles with clerestory and a large high transept from which an apse projects
: a Roman Catholic church given ceremonial privileges
bə-ˈsi-li-kən How to pronounce basilica (audio)
 also  -ˈzi-

Did you know?

From their noun basileus, meaning “king,” the Greeks derived the adjective basilikos meaning “royal.” In ancient Thera there was a public building called “Basilike stoa,” or Royal portico, and it may have been the prototype of later Roman basilicas. The first of these was built in 184 ce, and by the time of Augustus, there were five basilicas in the vicinity of the forum. They were used for public assembly, transacting business, and judicial proceedings. When the first Christian churches were built, they were often modeled after the civil basilicas.

Examples of basilica in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Pope Francis waves from the central loggia of St. Peter's basilica during the Urbi et Orbi message and blessing on Easter Sunday. Claudio Lavanga, NBC News, 31 Mar. 2024 The construction of the last of six towers will mark the completion of the structure of the basilica, the organization responsible for managing the site announced last week. Jack Guy, CNN, 25 Mar. 2024 The plaza oozes elegance, and the centerpiece is obviously the tower and neighboring 1,000-year-old basilica. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 21 Feb. 2024 By contrast, Porter and Schiff strung together elaborate basilicas of doubletalk designed to convey their agreement with Lee without saying as much outright. Noah Rothman, National Review, 13 Feb. 2024 The Lourdes sanctuary is now home to 22 places of worship, including three separate basilicas. Christine Rousselle, Fox News, 11 Feb. 2024 The city's striking hilltop Santa Luiza Sanctuary basilica is one of its symbols and the best spot for panoramic views over the entire area. Dobrina Zhekova, Travel + Leisure, 9 Feb. 2024 As the color drained from the sky, a group gathered before the white-stoned basilica of St. Denis, where dozens of French kings are buried, to pay homage to their ancestors. Catherine Porter, New York Times, 25 Jan. 2024 The basilica, which dates back sixteen centuries, features the Salus Populi Romani — an ancient icon of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus believed to be from the 6th century. Timothy H.j. Nerozzi Fox News, Fox News, 13 Dec. 2023

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

Word History


borrowed from Latin, borrowed from Greek basilikḗ (for basilikḕ stoá "royal stoa"), noun derivative from feminine of basilikós "of a king, royal," from basil- (base of basileús "king, prince," of pre-Greek substratal origin) + -ikos -ic entry 1

First Known Use

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of basilica was in 1541

Dictionary Entries Near basilica

Cite this Entry

“Basilica.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

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