ba·​sil·​i·​ca | \ bə-ˈsi-li-kə How to pronounce basilica (audio) also -ˈzi- \

Definition of basilica

1 : an oblong building ending in a semicircular apse used in ancient Rome especially for a court of justice and place of public assembly
2 : an early Christian church building consisting of nave and aisles with clerestory and a large high transept from which an apse projects
3 : a Roman Catholic church given ceremonial privileges

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Other Words from basilica

basilican \ bə-​ˈsi-​li-​kən How to pronounce basilica (audio) also  -​ˈzi-​ \ adjective

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 Francis celebrated the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica before just a few dozen faithful rather than the Santa Sabina basilica on the nearby Aventine hill where his Ash Wednesday service is usually held. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, "Pope celebrates pandemic-aware Ash Wednesday at Vatican," 17 Feb. 2021 About 200 members of a local far-right group protested noisily outside the basilica, singing the national anthem, La Marseillaise. New York Times, "New Terror Attacks Leave France Embattled at Home and Abroad," 29 Oct. 2020 The smaller-scale service was held in the rear section of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City instead of the main section of the basilica, Reuters reported. Dom Calicchio, Fox News, "Pope Francis celebrates low-key Christmas Eve Mass amid coronavirus restrictions," 25 Dec. 2020 This year, those pilgrimages have also been banned and the basilica will be closed. Laura Rodríguez Presa,, "‘She is with us wherever we are’: Believers find ways to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe for annual feast despite COVID-19 restrictions," 8 Dec. 2020 The long avenue facing the Notre-Dame basilica was a swirl of rumors and comments on Thursday night, with bystanders debating immigration, the government’s antiterrorism response and the violence plaguing the country. New York Times, "New Terror Attacks Leave France Embattled at Home and Abroad," 29 Oct. 2020 The pope also won’t celebrate Mass on New Year’s Day in the basilica for the same reason. Fox News, "Pope Francis to skip New Year's Eve ceremonies due to back pain," 1 Jan. 2021 At the basilica, police patrols and metal barricades reinforced the directive. Nina Strochlic, History & Culture, "Mexico adapts its mega-pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary in a disrupted year," 22 Dec. 2020 Fireworks sounded across the capital in Saturday’s predawn darkness, even as the area around the basilica was largely deserted. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "Another COVID-19 casualty: Mexico’s traditional celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe," 12 Dec. 2020

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

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for basilica

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

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Time Traveler for basilica

Time Traveler

The first known use of basilica was in 1541

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Statistics for basilica

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Basilica.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for basilica



English Language Learners Definition of basilica

: a large church that has a long central part that ends in a curved wall

More from Merriam-Webster on basilica

Nglish: Translation of basilica for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about basilica

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